Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Hopefully we will avoid the trick or treaters this evening although we are stocked up on chocolate just in case .  I was hoping to go to the Shed for an ECW game but the Old Bat needs the car for some last minute overtime work. Very annoying. Hopefully I can get some superglue at B&Q this afternoon and start work on the Kurganovas.

Anyway, over on Legatus Wargames Ladies we have a suitable Halloween pin-up from 1964, here.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

ACW Cavalry under way

I did manage to undercoat and and start my ACW cavalry yesterday, as you can see here.  I also  filed and based some Perry Afghans!  

The 32 figures I need for the Mexican Tolluca Battalion

I also got the base jacket colour down on my next unit of Mexicans for the Tolliuca Battalion.  These are now in three groups as regards progress: faces, jackets and trousers shaded, faces and jackets shaded with trousers base colour done and faces and jackets base colour done. Not sure whether to try to get them all to the same stage or carry on painting them in phases

Won't be posting much in the next few days as there is a problem with my computer and I have lost the right click function (which means some sort of virus, I suspect).  Off to KAD computers in Esher with it tomorrow. People who deliberately spread computer viruses should be imprisoned for ten years with no access to modern technology.  In the Falkand Islands.

Off to the NFL at Wembley, though, today!  Need to try and get some Superglue at Waterloo.  I have completely run out and I need to base Santa Anna!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Paint Table Saturday: American Civil War Cavalry

Very excited this morning, as for the first time for months I had a morning with no jobs to do, travel or children ferrying. I'll get up early and do some painting, I thought.  Except when I got up it was so dark I had to put all the lights on.  It is a bit brighter now so after lunch and a trip to Waitrose, I hope to do a few more jackets on my Boot Hill Mexicans.

Given the poor light, I decided to finish the bases of my Perry Miniatires ACW cavalry, the beginning of my Terence Wise ACW plastics project. While doing this I came to the realisation that Eric the Shed is either one of a series of clones or he is backed up by a painting shop of Asian ladies. It took me two evenings to assemble these figures and has taken me all morning to fill the gaps in the horses and add basing material,  yet he, as far as a I can see, has assembled and painted about 1,000 figures this year!  Oh, well, they are ready for undercoating now which I will do later this afternoon if the rain holds off.

Literally while I was writing this post, I was sent a Perry Miniatures newsletter explaining that they are going to be releasing a box of union infantry consisting of the skirmish poses from their recent new box (which I haven't been able to get yet).  Given these will be a bit more Airfix like than the marching poses which dominate the first set I may hold off getting these until this new box appears. I have ordered the Confederate infantry from Dark Sphere and hope I will have time to pick them up before the NFL game at Wembley tomorrow.

Today's inspirational computer wallpaper art is by the German painter Leo Putz (1869-1940).  Born in the South Tyrol in what, after WW1, became Italy, he settled in Munich and became part of the Munich Secessionists.  He used to spend the summer at Schloss Hartmannsburg in Bavaria where he painted many images of girls in boats and nude bathers by the lakes there.  This painting, The Rowing Boat, was painted in 1912 and has a surprisingly modern feel to it.  The lady is almost certainly his lover, Frieda Blell, a fellow painter,who Putz eventually married in 1913.

Today's music was a triple bill of Dvorak: the New World symphony (which I never tire of), his cello concerto and his little heard piano concerto. The New World always reminds me of ACW wargaming for reasons I will explain in another post (once I have got some paint on these figures, hopefully).

Something for the weekend...things I haven't done

Never been to a cricket match, either

I was pondering writing a post on things I haven't done, given my friend's incredulity that I hadn't been to a rugby game and only one football match.  I started thinking about other things I hadn't done which most of my friends have, when I went out to dinner with another friend on Tuesday. I hadn't really thought about it before but he thought some of my omissions were odd too.

In parallel with this, I was thinking I needed to post some more objectified ladies on my Legatus' Wargames Ladies blog, as I do enjoy an objectified lady. Speaking to my freind A, this afternoon, she suggested I combine the two with a post on things I haven't done, illustrated with pictures of underdressed ladies.  Brilliant!  So it is here! Naked ladies, of course.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Reading Wargames Magazines over lunch and what's going on

Well, I was in London on Tuesday and had one of those awkward breaks in the day.  I had finished my meetings by 12.00 and my meeting in the afternoon was cancelled but I was due to meet up with a friend in the evening. Nothing to do but go to the National Cafe at the National Gallery and have a spot of lunch.  I already had two wargames magazines in my bag and bought the new Miniature Wargames at WH Smith in Holborn, so I had three magazines to look at.

I had been in Trafalgar square last Friday as well (which was Trafalgar Day!) having walked there from Orc's Nest on my way to catch the Tube back to the City to meet up with some former colleagues for dinner.  We went to a Tapas bar in Mincing Lane (Camino - nice food, nice waitresses far too noisy for old people like me) and drank a toast " a pox on the Spanish and the French!"  My friend had a spare ticket for the NFL game at Twickenham which was a bonus.  I went to the old pre-season American Football games at Wembley back in the late eighties but haven't been to any of the new regular season games the NFL is running, while they decide if they are going to start a team in London or not.

At Orc's Nest I picked up The Men who Would be King rules, having played a large Zulu Wars game with them at the Shed on Monday.  After my meeting in the City (where I successfully avoided being posted to Riyadh for three months - no alcohol, no pork and no women - I cannot imagine a worse environment) I sat in Pret-a-Manger and had a look through them.  Having already played them that week I did at least manage to follow what the rules are about and I also noticed some of the house rules Eric the Shed had introduced, such as a skirmish unit category and having an overall leader who can rally pinned troops.  What really cheered me up was a whole section on solo play and also the suggested forces.  I already have all the figures painted for s Beja force in the the Sudan and have all but the Cavalry for the British.  I am well on the way with Zulus and British too.  The units of 16 for natives and 12 for the British are much more achievable for me than the units of 20 I was trying to paint for The Sword and the Flame.  My Colonial Wargaming looks like it might be rejuvenated by these rules.  What I have to get over is trying to recreate historic battles and play some imaginary ones (although it makes me shudder to do so!).

While looking for something else I discovered a pack of 4Ground skirmish movement trays I had forgotten I even owned.  I think I bought them at Salute when Dux Bellorum (another Dan Mersey ruleset) came out in 2012 but I never used them as I hate movement trays but I think I will have to give up on this one!   As they hold eight figure each they will be great for Zulus and Beja as I mount my figures on 20mm square bases.  I have tried a few in the holes and will have to trim each base by a millimetre or two but it could work!  If it does, I will try and pick up some more at Warfare in November.  Amazingly they are still the same price as they were four years ago!

In the same pile of horizontal format material I also found my Back of Beyond rules, several sheets of steel paper, a DVD of Up Pompeii (in one of those card sleeves that newspapers used to give away), the missing grass sheet I pose my painted figures on and several charcoal drawings I did of girlfriends at college (all dressed, surprisingly).

On Sunday I went to Twickenham for the American Football,  Rather depressingly, I worked out that I had last seen the Los Angeles Rams play in London 29 years ago!  I had not been to Twickenham stadium before, even though it is less than ten miles from where I live.  This is because I have never attended a rugby match.  When I told this to my friend he didn't believe it but I have only been to one football match as well. I am contemplating writing a post on things I have never done!

I was impressed by Twickenham Stadium, I have to say and it appeared to be completely full with rather more women than  I was expecting (although not as many as you get at a game in the US) and a lot more Germans, oddly.  However the pounding third rate rock music played constantly before and during the game got on my nerves.  It could have been worse, it could have been rap, I suppose. 

I was quite impressed that they had  Nicole Scherzinger singing the American National anthem and she completely out sang Laura Wright, the poor man's Katherine Jenkins (who is the poor man's opera singer), who sang God Save the Queen.  

My seat was right up the top of the stadium and to get there you have to go up along a spiral ramp, like the vertical car park in the first episode of Captain Scarlet. I was getting quite dizzy half way up so stopped to look at the view.  This was worthwhile as the Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders appeared to do a short routine down below.  A man with two sons of about eight and ten was just ahead of me and saw them too.  "Do you want to go down and watch the cheerleaders?" he asked the boys.  "No!"  Heh, heh!

Part way through the game, I realised why I preferred not to go to big stadia to watch sport: the people in the crowd are mostly ghastly.  For a start I was surprised that they allow alcohol into the stadium and I was stuck behind five boys who looked about fourteen to me but must have been eighteen given the amount of beer they were buying.  They were really stupid and annoying, conducting swordfights with their flags and shouting instructions at the players.  They can't hear you and you just sound like a pratt. Basically, I don't like people!  Of course the worst thing about British NFL fans is that they all want to be American so whoop and holler as if they were.  You're British!  Calm down!  Anyway I am off to Sunday's game at Wembley so it will be interesting to go there as I haven't been to Wembley Stadium either.

So, after this rather rambling diversion it is back to lunch at the National Gallery.  They have a special Italian menu to go with their Caravaggio exhibition, at present, so I decided to have Truffled White Bean Soup to start with.  Given I had four hours to kill before meeting up with my friend I thought I might as well have a bottle of wine too, so chose the Sicilian Nero d'Avola.  I have had several Sicilian girlfriends, including one who meant that I couldn't travel to Sicily for a while due to an incensed husband with 'connections'.  I looked her up on LinkedIn recently and she has aged badly but then she would probably say the same about me.  It was thirty years ago!

The first magazine I looked at was October's Wargames Illustrated.  The theme was warrior women but I have no interest in Joan of Arc, Saint Olga of Kiev or Empress Maria Theresa.  I did enjoy the piece on their fourth "warrior woman", the Dice Bag Lady, Annie Norman, from whom I have bought a number of figures for my not yet realised female Frostgrave company.  Although I would never admit to her that I like barely dressed women warrior figures.  Articles on the Spanish Civil War (one of my pet hates) and Team Yankee (actually I have been tempted by this; having read the book and bought some modern 1/300 armour for it many many years ago) were skipped over.  There was quite a good piece on making ruined buildings, although the day I make my own wargames scenery will be the day the they decide resin and laser cutting are banned for health reasons. I also wasn't interested in the Winter War piece (good pictures, though) or colonial Ethiopia but The Men Who Would be Kings wild west variant did look interesting, as I have always wanted a Seventh Cavalry force.

No, what really interested me in that issue was the In Her Majesty's Name statistics for a Lost World force plus cavemen and dinosaurs.  Of course, I have started to paint figures for this and the author's characters are very close to mine (as they are roughly based on the Conan Doyle novel plus the dreadfully enjoyable Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World  TV series (which made Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea look like Wolf Hall). 

One thing annoyed me about the article, however, in that it posited a second Professor Challenger expedition and includes fictional background which they date to 1895, making it a Victorian adventure (and by extension, Challenger's original adventure, as detailed in Conan Doyle's book).  Of course the novel was originally published in 1912 and was not, therefore, Victorian or even Edwardian!  Of course, I am writing my own erotic version of The Lost World, initially for a couple of lady friends but now I am serialising it online so I know a lot about the original story and the time period!

Right, onto my second course, of Tagliolini with braised shin of beef and bone marrow butter.  This was very good indeed although quite messy to eat and I kept splashing the pages of the two issues of Miniature Wargames I looked at.  I always thought of this magazine as the lesser of the two main wargames magazines in the nineties, when I started buying them regularly, mainly because of the badly painted figures that they used to feature in their articles.  Something to do with featuring achievable painting standards, they claimed,  but then that is rather akin to featuring "real women" in fashion and beauty advertisements.  I don't want to see them, I want to see some impossibly gorgeous looking Eastern European, however unattainable (although there was that girl, Ringaile, from Lithuania who  I met in a nightclub in Riga.  She was very attainable after a few glasses of Vodka).

This issue was the last one edited by Henry Hyde, a man whose loss to the magazine was much mourned.  Frankly, I am afraid I don't really register the editors of magazines.  It either has articles in it I am interested in or it doesn't. Still, Hyde, who seems to have been pushed out by a publisher with new ideas (usually a bad sign, often leading to the imminent demise of the publication) ,was well thought of and his Battlegames certainly had more to it than most equivalents at the time, although it was bit too gamey (like jugged hare) for me.

One thing that did annoy me about Hyde was his World Wide Wargaming page, despite it highlighting some blogs of bloggers I know (congratulations to Eric the Shed for deservedly featuring in this last one).  There was something a bit know it all and didactic about its tone.  This month's  edition was no different, in which he pondered why people continued to use Blogger rather than Wordpress like him.  To me, people who use Wordpress are like people who have Apple computers, hybrid cars or record turntables ("the sound is so much better" - yes apart from all the clicks and crackles)..  There is something slightly condescendingly superior about them,   Hyde says we should be "buying (bad start) one's (pretentious) own domain name and hosting from an Internet Service provider and installing Wordpress yourself" (not ones self?).  Well I wouldn't have the first idea about how to do this and that's why I use Blogger because it is dead simple. One thing I have noticed about Wordpress blogs is that I can't follow them on Blogger.  Updates don't appear, so they disappear as far as I am concerned.  This happened when Dr Phil Hendry switched to Wordpress, which is a shame as I used to like his blog.  Hyde then goes on to talk about how to code a picture so that it appears in the Miniatures Page.  I had no idea what this was about.  I just post the url to a picture in Blogger and up it comes with no problem.  No need to adjust widths or limit pixels as he suggested.  He also urged us to use gallery pages.  "I look at many wargames blogs, especially those with lots of photos, where I feel like they're missing a trick and could potentially present their material in a more attractive way, using photo-gallery plug-ins (what is a plug-in?) that are available with many Wordpress themes."  Again, its the superior tone.  It's like having Gwyneth Paltrow telling you what you should eat all the time.  Actually, I hate gallery pages.  I always switch off 'view in lightbox' on my blogs too as I don't want to separate the pictures from the text..

So what else was in his farewell issue?  Another one of those how to build ugly scenics by the Wargames Widow, which I didn't read, again.  Something on Kursk, which would have been of interest when I was fourteen but, like Science Fiction and pop music, I have grown out of WW2 tank battles, There was yet another old school eighteenth century imaginations piece,also of no interest, Something on the ECW using hex terrain (brain switches off).  I quite enjoyed the Wargaming my Way piece, despite the author's espousal of hexes.  There were also articles on small scale wargames (no thanks) and a show report (I never look at these).  Conrad Kinch had a piece on the problems of multi-player games which, of course, are what I play exclusively, so I will probably read that but the light was failing and the point size of Miniature Wargames is too small for me to read in poor light. So out with a whimper not bang, I think, for this one.

So, on to the, hot off the press, new Miniature Wargames, complete with ugly random fonts all over the cover which made it look like a mid 2000s Playboy.  The magazine title fonts (two, really?) looked rather more fantasy wargaming than historical (perhaps deliberately).  The "Miniature" font had something of the UK editions of those Slave Girl of Gor books about it.  "16-page Sci-Fi and Fantasy Section" it trumpets on the cover.  There has been much muttering about this, particularly given the choice of John Treadaway as editor. I have clashed with Mr T before, over the appalling Nazi apologists who appeared at Salute some years ago.  He also can be superior and condescending.  He is always going on, on TMP, about why don't people use real names for their posts on TMP and the rest of the internet?  Because with that information I immediately discovered where he lived, where he worked and the fact that he has a Dalek in his house. Anyway, the other thing I don't like about him is his fixation on Hammer's Slammers, an SF (who still calls it Sci-Fi?) wargames world based on a series of novels by David Drake. I read the original novel and unutterably tedious and depressing it was too.  Needless to say there is a how to paint hover tanks article by Mr T in this issue.

The first piece in Forward Observer (they aren't exactly the changing the content) was on the rise of plastic figures.  A wasted opportunity this.  I would have been interesting to find out why plastics are now so viable for wargames figures manufaturers not just a statement that they exist and a not very informative review of the new Vixtrix phalangites,  The Wargaming my Way piece I really enjoyed because it resonated with me more than Mr Hex from the previous issue..  Articles on playing with tanks in the garden and dreadnoughts (not interested in naval wargaming at all) had no interest.  There was a good piece on the 1940 invasion of Crete which is quite a tank free zone, thank goodness.  The article on hidden movement was hilarious in that the author proposed the very practical solution of having two identical wargames tables with each side on a different  table.

The vaunted new fantasy section was actually mostly SF apart from an interview with the creator of Frostgrave,  I was losing interest in this game, due to its new animal faced gnolls but I am now interested in it again because of the forthcoming barbarian figures (it's all about the figures, not the rules for me).  I'm not an automatic anti SF and fantasy person, although there is still this niggle at the back of my mind that it is for children, like sweets, pop music and carbonated drinks. Given my extensive SF reading background when I was young I do have a hankering for some sort of SF figures to paint (for fantasy I am happy with GW's Lord of the Rings and wouldn't be seeking anything else).  There was a piece on an interesting plug together corridor scenery system but the accompanying photos were so small and dark (see above) I couldn't work out what it looked like at all.

Frankly, inside, apart from the fantasy section, the magazine didn't look that different.  The typeface was just as small and difficult to read and they persist in printing text on coloured backgrounds, which also doesn't help legibility.  They were a few changes in the way they presented headings etc but it was largely cosmetic.  If there is one slight design change it is that there seems to be more but snaller pictures. Frankly, I was hoping for something a bit more radical but perhaps it will evolve.

So, if you have got this far you obviously don't have any figures to paint, although I actually painted some base colours on faces and a few jackets on my Mexicans yesterday, the first proper painting I have done since May,  I hope to get my Perry ACW cavalry filled, based and undercoated this weekend, except I will be at Wembley on Sunday.

Some new tunes, while writing this very long post (as I haven't posted much at all in the last few months) with Alexander Grechaninov's first two symphonies which I discoverd in my usual roundabout way.  Having watched a Michael Portillo Great Continental Railway Journeys TV programme on Romania I started looking for more music by George Enescu and came across a recording by the George Enescu State Philharmonic Orchestra of Grechaninov (1864-1956),  One thing iTunes is good for is trying out new tunes,  Grechaninov studied under Rimsky- Korsakov and if you like him or Borodin you will probably like this.  Some of it is reminiscent of John Williams second trilogy Star Wars music, which is not a surprise as Williams is an expert on lesser known Russian composers.

Maybe some "something for the weekend" ladies later!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Zulu Wars in the Shed and back to the ACW?

Well it was nice to get over to the Shed this week and see the extension that Eric has been working on over the summer.  We played a Zulu Wars game with the new The Men who Would be Kings rules by Dan Mersey. My account of it is here and Eric the Shed's much more comprehensive view of it is here.  We had five players and my dice throwing was a bit better than usual although not as good as Alastair's!

Throw five or six to hit!

My DIY skills do not extend further than putting up a curtain rail or, possibly, a shelf, at most.  I cannot do things with wood, let alone build a shed from scratch!  We got a shed a couple of years ago but I had to pay Mr John Lewis £3000 for it (plus another £1000 for the base).

How do people even learn how to do this stuff?  Even if I did learn I would still be rubbish at execution.  My father in law despairs of me.  He has a whole workshop full of stuff for doing stuff to stuff. I get stressed if I have to put on an electric plug.  Maybe its about having the right tools.  This is his workshop.  Look at the size of it!  It's got two boats in it he is working on.  This boat was at Dunkirk in 1940!

Eric's Shedstension means you can stand back and admire his lovely table from afar

Oh well.  The Shedstension means that Eric now has more room for his stuff.  This is useful wargames stuff, which is proper stuff, not weird tools stuff (although he probably has those too).  I was over at my father in law's the other week and he was talking about a new 'router'. What on earth is a router?  What is it for?  I have never heard of such a thing.  Some sort of power tool, I gather.  I didn't ask in case he told me and made me feel inadequate.  He gets cross that I make the Old Bat lay concrete and such like.  I don't make her, actually, she does it herself.  I am always in trouble for not maintaining the house.  How do you maintain a house? Things fall apart (as that annoying Nigerian novel was called which I had to study at school - I seem to recall it was mostly about yams) and you put up with them not working until it gets so bad you get a man in to deal with it (or get the Old Bat to do it),  

It even looks evil!

If the Old Bat gets really cross with me ("Have you paid for Guy's rowing?"  "Have you paid for Charlotte's physiotherapy?" etc etc - it's always pay, pay, pay for something for those waste of time and money babies) she threatens to buy me a Black & Decker workmate for Christmas.  She does this because she knows it would be my worst present ever and I would never use it (I probably would struggle with getting it out of the box).  She just likes the idea of it sitting there in the shed like a malevolent spirit (like that evil rocking horse in the scariest film I ever saw when I was little, The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)) making me feel uncomfortable.

Anyway, the Shed has been much enhanced with the addition of things like a kettle and also music (we had the Zulu soundtrack by John Barry playing).  Of course from now on I will expect appropriate music for every game!  We also had a new player along although, of course, they were a proper wargamer, not a terrified amateur like me.  The reason I stopped going to Guildford Wargames Club was that I got so stressed about having to play against clever people who knew the rules.  The Shed is a very friendly environment, though and people are patient with me.

I haven't played a game there since May and this was only my third game of the year but I have been very busy at work (I am back working from home - I didn't like going back to commuting) and dealing with various issues with the children who are both stressing me out.  I really want to get back to doing a bit of painting but my eyesight seems to have taken a turn for the worse and I know I can't paint to the standard I used to (which wasn't that good, anyway) so I am a bit frightened of picking up a brush in case my eyesight is even worse than I thought.

What I am now not sure about now is where this leaves my own Zulu Wars project.  Eric now has every figure you could possible need for a game so it seems a bit pointless to carry on at my glacial speed painting figures.  I have painted 40 Zulus and some 25 British but this is about 10% of what Eric painted in a few months.  Still, some solo skirmish games might be on the cards.

I have been good at not buying any figures and haven't been to a show since Salute but I might try and get to Warfare.  I am very tempted by Perry miniatures new Union ACW plastics, despite stopping and starting with the period several times.  This is all to do with Airfix days, of course and the recent article in the September issue of miniature Wargames on recreating a Terence Wise scenario from his book Introduction to Battle Gaming. using plastic 1/72nd figures.

The (fictional) Centerville battle was one I played many times with my friends in the mid seventies.  To do this again with 28mm plastics and the same rules is very tempting.  Now Guy has gone to university it would be easy to set up our table tennis table in his room for a solo game.  Each side has 81 infantry (3 regiments of 27) 12 cavalry and three guns.  So I reckon that would be eight boxes plus a few metal command. Hmm...

Of course I would have to paint all those figures and that would mean sacrificing painting quality (which I find really hard to do - I just cannot contemplate army painter!) but if they were plastics maybe I wouldn't care so much.  Now the real issue is that I have only painted 10 figures this year but a project like this might get me painting again.

Exciting update: I based some Mexicans today.  My first hobby activity for six months!  Hooray!
Not such an exciting update:  There is a chance I will have to go and work abroad for three months.  Boo!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Back from Africa 1: Botswana

I haven't done any painting for three months as I have spent six weeks of the last eleven in Africa and two in Cowes. The rest of the time was spent preparing for those trips, writing reports afterwards and getting Guy off to university for the first time.  I have been following lots of wargames blogs and Facebook pages and noting, in particular, the buzz around Congo and some mixed reviews for The Men Who Would Be Kings.  

This used to be under water

Although I have been to Zambia once on business, all my other African visits have been to North Africa (Tunisia, Libya and Egypt) which is a very different prospect from sub-Saharan Africa.  Botswana is in Southern Africa, and is a different environment again. They haven't had any proper rain for three years and water is becoming a problem.  Botswana is the success story of Africa with low corruption, good government and a strong economy.  However it's economy is built almost exclusively on diamond mining and really the country is funded directly by De Beers who have the mining concessions there.

The capital, Gaborone has a lot of modern buildings, excellent roads and a feeling of prosperity about it although the country is starting to suffer as a result of the drought and the recession has hit diamond sales.  Ten per cent of the two million population live in the capital and it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with much of the centre of it being taken up by the Kalahari desert.

You can't fly direct from the UK so I flew to Johannesburg (over ten hours) for an overnight stop and a meeting and then the short hop back to Gaborone.  It was my first trip on an A380 Airbus and I think it was noticeably quieter in the cabin but I did worry about the number of people on board.   I was supposed to get an aisle seat but I ended up in the middle which is no fun on an overnight flight.  Fortunately, I had time to decompress at the other end.

The trip up from Johannesburg was short and the airport at Gaborone is bright and modern (unlike Johannesburg which was old fashioned and dingy).

St Louis beer in the pool bar

On my way from the airport I passed the St Louis brewery and, as I like to support the local brewing industry, I drank quite a lot of it, although, I have to confess, it wasn't very exciting and I found that the Namibian equivalent was much better.

Namibia's Windhoek lager

The South African beer was even better and I tried a few but felt I should be supporting the other countries more.  Service in the hotel varied from indifference to genuinely friendly and helpful although we noticed things improved when they discovered we weren't South African, which nearly all the white people in the hotel were.  I did see one or two unpleasant old style Afrikaans examples of behaviour towards the staff (calling someone 'boy' is never going to sound respectful) which took me back to the days of Spitting Image's classic song "I've never met a nice South African" which I would then happily whistle whenever I saw something unpleasant.

Still, I met a nice South African lady in my last few days, when my colleague had departed for Namibia.  He doesn't drink alcohol and talks about politics (something I have no interest in whatsoever) all the time, so after two weeks with him I was glad to replace him with a friendly blonde and bottles of South African wine (even if I had to drink girls' wine). Two weeks without wine was making me twitchy.  Beer is a soft drink.

The office

My hotel was very nice indeed, with gardens and a pool with a nice outdoor covered bar which served as our office for most of the visit.  The temperature was cold in the mornings (7 degrees) but rose to 22 or 23 by the afternoon.  Perfect for working outside!

I didn't swim in the pool but it was unheated and two American girls who tried it immediately shot out of the water like Orcas chasing a seal.

Still, I made friends with Pool Bar Cat who did quite well on scraps from people's tables.  He was a very polite cat and would just sit at your feet and look hopeful rather than jumping up on your table like next door's cat, Harry, has a habit of doing.  Amusingly, he was a grey version of Harry; he looked like a black and white photograph of him!

Talking of feline; after we had been there a day or two the environment was considerably enlivened by the arrival of a dozen tall, skinny women who were, it turned out, the finalists for the Miss Botswana competition.  Annoyingly this was due to take place the day after I had to leave otherwise I would have gone.  One of the girls even had a free ticket for me!  They were all, very, very young!

The ladies tottered about on their five inch heels wearing skin tight trousers (African ladies -goodness me!) attending a number of promotional events but they had breakfast and dinner in the hotel.  I saw one at breakfast having a meal of a glass of water and five olives!  They all looked friendly enough in press shots but in reality, although they all 'ate' together they seemed very aware that they were all competitors and did not seem the best of friends.

The view from my room

.I had a nice room which had a lovely view of the main part of the hotel but was in a quiet annex.  This was just as well as the walk from my room to the hotel was about the limit of my exercise for over two and half weeks.

Two and a half weeks of hotel food started to take their toll and I put on half a stone.  The issue, primarily was a cooked breakfast buffet.  I justified this because on most days we were too busy to have lunch.

Breakfast was very good indeed with rye bread toast available, delicious eggs, first class bacon and good sausages (meat in Botswana is excellent).

Added to this was the fact that they had good tea, proper milk and those two key indicators of world civilisation HP sauce and Colman's mustard.  These two enhanced breakfast nearly as much as the Miss Botswana contestants!

In the second week I was good and had porridge instead, though (except for the last day when I had everything and added a steak as well!).  The pool bar food tended to be quite high calorie but I did have one or two wraps with salad on the rare lunchtimes I was in the hotel.  There was an a la carte restaurant in the hotel but it was expensive and had terrible reviews on Trip Advisor.  It also didn't have any windows, unlike the main restaurant, so I didn't bother with that.  The problem was that the food in the evenings was a buffet too, which is never  a good thing.  They had Indian chefs so the curry bar was particularly splendid.

One evening, while walking from my room to the restaurant a whole load of monkeys appeared outside my room.  There were date plalms in the grounds and they come after the dates, it seems.   I was, for some reason, absolutely delighted by this!

At the weekend we got out to see some animals in the bush. The landscape here is really more Zulu Wars than Congo but I had Michael Small's soundtrack to Mountains of the Moon on my iPod which is perfect African explorer music.  However, the submerged hippo was a nice Congo moment and made me think about my diet too as I was reminded of my brother in law, who is derided by the Old Bat's (genetically skinny) family as he is even heavier than me (well, the wrong side of 25 stone which is a lot more than me!)

Actually,  I have eaten that!

 Now usually my view of animals is that the only good one is a cooked one but I enjoyed seeing some of the creatures and it got me thinking that I need to paint some of the African animals I have for Congo, as the game actually requires some creatures.

Unfortunately, quite a lot of the African animals in 28mm are a bit cartoon-like (Foundry Lions) and very few are as nice as the old Copplestone rhinos and elephants,  No one seems to make nice zebra ,which is a shame as I would love to paint a herd of zebra.

North Star do some warthogs (along with quite a lot of other African animals) so I will certainly have to get a couple, given I saw some!  I have a giraffe, some elephants some gorillas, some lions and some African cattle, somewhere.

So Botswana was a very nice country to visit and I may have to go back there again next month or after Christmas when it will be rather warmer!

Botswana used to known as Bechuanaland which was British protectorate, administered from Mafeking, until Botswana's independence in 1966.  It was one of three High Commission Territories, along with Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Swaziland.  The local inhabitants resisted incursion by the Boers and the British South African Company.  The story of the first President, who married, controversially at the time, a white woman is told in the new film A United Kingdom which had its premier last week.  The current president is his son and was born in Chertsey, Surrey (as was my daughter!)

From a wargaming piont of view the local  Bechuana (now known as the Tswana) provided a force of their warriors to fight with the British against the Matabele, their traditional enemy.  They had very distinctive H-shaped shields and employed throwing spears extensively.  I may have to try and convert a few once I work out how to model their distinctive cloaks.

The next post looks at the Africa country I visited last month, Liberia, a very different experience indeed.