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! 

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Paint Table Saturday: American and Mexican cavalry

 Paint table today

I like painting horses but don't like painting cavalry, mostly because of all the fiddly bridles and horse furniture.  I was going to get on with my Perry ACW cavalry horses today but then noticed my box of Mexican lancers looking a bit bare so thought that I could progress some of the horses of both at the same time, although it will slow the ACW cavalry down a lot.  I will just be doing the horses on the Mexicans and will leave the riders until another time.

So here are the shaded coats of the chestnut contingent with three Union and two Mexican cavalry.  The light is awful again and I struggled with these. I have decided to not go mad on the quality of these so am going to be rather impressionistic on the horses.  That said, it is still five colour shading!  Hopefully tomorrow I can do some of the bays, although the Old Bat has got the day off work and is going to make me go on a walk/jog (mainly walking, I suspect).  I am encouraged by the progress on my much needed diet, although I haven't been so good the last two days, having succumbed to a reduced pork pie, egged (no it wasn't a gala pie) on by my daughter while out shopping for the weird (and expensive - they do frozen shiitake mushrooms?) vegetarian stuff she eats. it's alright for her, though as she is 5' 10" and weighs 7 stone 10lbs, despite eating like a horse.  Never mind, I have been good again today and I have lost eight pounds since I got back from Liberia.   

Today's inspirational wallpaper is of a non-American theme, Ariadne asleep on the island of Naxos (1815) but is by an American artist, John Vanderlyn.  Vanderlyn, a New Yorker, was the first American artist to study in Paris and the first to have a painting accepted by the Paris Salon.  This was really the first major nude by an  American painter.  Needless to say, when it was first displayed in America in 1815, its sensual approach caused controversy and as late as the 1890s, when it was firmly esconced in the Pennsylvania Academy's collection, there were protests against its "flagrant indelicacy" and calls for it to be removed from display.  The Legatus saw this painting in the Pennsylvania Academy on a visit to Philadelphia (a city with a fine artistic tradition) a few years ago.

In artistic contrast I have been listening to an American inspired piece of music by a European composer; Dvorak's New World symphony.  It is odd how some pieces of music become so familiar that you can't stand to listen to them any more (Beethoven's 6th, Mozart's Symphony Number 40, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto) but some remain fresh, despite repeated hearings.  I never get tired of the New World, even though I have been listening to it for nearly half a century and it was one of the first five records (with Beethoven's 3rd, Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt Pepper - all of which I still enjoy) I owned.  I was given them by my aunt when she got married in 1968, as they were duplicates with her new husband's collection. 

This piece reminds me of my days of doing ACW wargames with Arifix plastics and I used to play it when setting up my wargames board in the dining room.  This always stressed my mother out as I manoeuvered two 7' by 3' 6" boards through the French windows onto her precious dining table.  The version of the New World I had inherited was an old mono recording by Otto Klemperer which featured this painting, The Old Stage Coach by another American painter.  Eastman Johnson (1824-1906).   It is a very evocative piece and when looking at it on the glory of a 12" record cover it used to quite transport me (despite the lack of wheels).

Imagine how excited I was, when wandering around the Pennsylvania Academy the same day as I saw the Vanderlyn painting, to see this detailed oil sketch by Johnson of the same painting!  Today, the version I have on CD is by George Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and it is one of the oldest CDs in my collection.  Solti and the CSO are on their finest form and he conducts it as if it was a new and exciting work, not an old favourite.  A fabulous recording!  When I play it I can still smell the evergreen shrub clippings I used as trees as I built a version of Devil's Den from Gettysburg out of stones from the garden and lichen.