Saturday, April 29, 2017

Paint Table Saturday and a Blast from the Past

Well, it's Salute plus one week and I have a long weekend to get some painting done.  One of the things I am aiming to achieve this week is to assemble my Renedra Mud Brick house and look at the colour scheme I might need for it, so I have been looking at lots of pictures of these buildings in Egypt and Afghanistan.  They will also work for the Arab settled parts of Africa too.  As far as my Salute purchases go I have filed and based my Iron Duke Indian Mutiny British Command, my ACW Confederates in Frock coats and some Perry Afghans.  I haven't touched the Victrix Romans yet as if I open those I know I will get completely distracted.  Rather annoyingly, I bought a set of Little Big Men shield transfers for these at Salute and only a few days afterwards they brought out transfers for Legio II Augusta.  This was the unit Cato and Macro, from Simon Scarrow's books, served in in Britain and a few years ago LBM kindly made me some Legio II shield transfers for the Warlord plastics as they didn't have them.  I will have to order some now!

This weekend I want to finish my first company of Confederate infantry which will be this company of Virginians.  It's the black bits next, though, so I went to Kingston this week and bought three more Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes at £35!  Although you can get them cheaper online I like to check the tips of each before I buy them.

I've been reading lots of post Salute blogs and enjoying all the pictures of games which I completely missed as I walked around ExCel.  However, without wanting to sound like the didactic Henry Hyde (wargaming's own Gwyneth Paltrow) I wish some people would expand the width of their blogs so old people like me could read them and appreciate their pictures.  This one, for example, could do with expanding and bigger text.  As you can see there is lots of expansion room on the page.  It's not hard to do.  Even I managed to do it and I am completely computer illiterate, although you do  have to re-format your title picture, if you have one. 

I had quite a quiet day the Sunday after Salute and had a nice chat with my friend over breakfast in Sainsbury's.  She has taken up yoga and, like all converts, is now urging me to do the same (my doctor has suggested it too).  Having seen the ladies doing yoga in the Village Centre, however, I would need to go on a six month fitness regime before even joining.   One of Guy's schoolfriend''s mother was a typical Oxshott yummy mummy and spent around four hours a day in the gym.  She does triathlons; ironman ones, not those silly little ones like I did once on the Isle of Wight.  In fact, she did the round the Isle of Wight cycle route (62 miles) before lunch a year or so ago.  I used to do the London to Brighton bike ride (60 miles) ad it used to take me six hours. The Isle of Wight route is much hillier, too.   Talking of fit, while I was undercoating some Confederate infantry on Sunday,  the Old Bat was chatting to Louise Redknapp and Daisy Lowe, annoyingly.  Oh, how I enjoyed Miss Lowe's Playboy pictures a few years ago.   She does yoga, I believe.  Seems to work.

One of my ex-girlfriends from College is very into yoga, to the extent that she used to go and study in India once a year and had a yoga book importing business.  She wasn't that flexible when I knew her, though, sadly.  Unlike another girlfriend of mine, K, who unexpectedly got in touch with me this week after not communicating for ten years (we had lost each other's e-mail addresses and she had moved house).  K, who I was at College with too, was always doing dance classes at Pineapple after university.  She was always very skinny and very, very flexible.  I dug out a sketch of her I did at university, when she weighed about six stone ten (94 lbs for Americans). I haven't seen her for 20 years (she lives in Cambridgeshire) but we were very close and we are going to meet up again in London soon.  As a result (and the college Gaudy in two months) I am trying to eat less (no more cooked breakfasts, sniff) and went running again yesterday  morning (37 minutes!). I suspect K will not have been subject to middle age spread; she was always taut and trim.

Today's music is the Ashkenazy/Ghindin recording of the original versions of Rachmaninov's Piano concertos number one and four, which are very much the less performed of his four concertos..  The first was written when he was only seventeen and owes a lot to both the Grieg and the Tchaikovsky.  This early version is not nearly as successful as his later revision, which is what is performed today,  With the Fourth, however, the original version is actually superior (especially in the last movement) and contains about three minutes of extra material.   Ashkenazy, as might be expected from a pianist, is a sympathetic conductor although the Helsinki Orchestra are not a patch on the LSO, who accompanied him when he played these pieces under Andre Previn.  Forty year old Ghindin, who I haven't heard before, is excellent.   Fascinating recording.

Today's wallpaper is The Victory of Faith (1889) by the Irish painter St George Hare. This gently sensual picture actually has a religious theme and depicts two Christian women imprisoned in a Roman amphitheatre, while barely visible lions glower through the bars in the background. The white girl is tied to a stone pillar on which a cross has been scratched. The dark skinned woman is supposed to be her Ethiopian maid, with them both being due to be thrown to the lions the next day.  Their tender touching of each other may be intended to depict their shared faith but now it seems likely that Hare copied the pose from a French erotic postcard!

Hare (1857-1933) produced a number of pictures of chained women for supposedly religious, uplifting paintings. This picture was well received at the time, however, and is now on display in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, to which it was donated in 1905. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Post Salute Depression...

Well not really, but the rushing around on the day (after a very busy week at work) has made me rather tired and my legs still ache.  The only thing to do was go and meet my friend in Sainsbury's and end parenthesise Salute 24 hours with another cooked breakfast.  I nearly bought Rogue One in Sainsburys as they have it for £10 but don't know if I want to watch it again.  It would be interesting to see what the video sales are of this,  Charlotte says she wants to see it again but she is a Star Wars superfan.

I am grateful for the kind comments on my Salute post yesterday but feel rather guilty as it was, really, not a Salute post at all and was sorely lacking in pictures and other Salute content.  It has been nice to catch up on other people's much better blog posts and look at their fantastic pictures.   As ever, Wargames News and Terrain have done a fantastic job collecting posts, news and pictures into one place.  Hopefully, there will be more blog posts in the next few days. I can't believe how many things I missed and was particularly annoyed to miss Dalauppror's lovely looking (and prize winning) Fort Mosquito game.  I missed his last Salute game too even more annoyingly.

I also started to remember all the things I meant to go back and buy but forgot to; principally the Perry Afghans with mountain gun, which I could have used with my Sikhs until my North Star one turns up (if ever).  I also think I should have gone back and got some Victrix Macedonian pikemen but as Big Red Bat said to me today "I'm surprised you've not got a stash of metal ones in your Lead Mountain" and, of course, he was right.  I found these Foundry figures straight away and suspect I may have more somewhere.  I really need to sort out the pile!  I wish I'd bought a couple more TableScape mud brick houses too.

Usually, I return from Salute with a great desire to get painting but I didn't feel like it today, although I did undercoat the last company of my first Confederate infantry unit.  I also filed and based the Perry metal Confederates in frock coats, who are destined to form my Texan regiment. These are lovely and I am looking forward to starting them. I need three more packs, though.  I also got my newest North West Frontier figures based too so the day wasn't a total write off.

I'm not sure how my work week is going to pan out; it could mean a frantic two days on Monday and Tuesday or I could have more time to get on with a couple of longer term projects I need to finish which I have had to drop in the last month due to other demands.  I can't make Shed Wars tomorrow, as I have a conference call in the evening, which is particularly annoying as it is an ACW game. and I haven't actually played an ACW game since my Airfix days in the seventies.  Overall, though, despite my post Salute ennui I am looking forward to getting some more painting done in the next seven days.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Back from Salute 2017

Attractive ladies at right  probably aren't going into Salute - I suspect they may run fast

Well I am back from Salute, with the usual sore feet and tired legs but at least I won't feel as bad as all the London Marathon runners, who were all registering at ExCel too this year (after a break from coinciding with Salute last year) will after tomorrow.  I first ran the London Marathon in 1987 (3hrs 56 mins - marathon runners always tell you their time) and went to work the next day, stupidly.  I have never had such agony in my legs ever.  Literally every step was excruciating.  I ran it again in 1990 (3hrs 35 mins) and it wasn't quite as bad as I was better trained but it was still bad.  Even worse, when I got back to the station at home this afternoon, the Old Bat was at the garden centre and I had to walk home.  Good exercise, I suppose.  Ow.

The Raphia Mafia

I was going to say that I took the fewest number of pictures I had ever done at Salute but that is not true.  Still, I took less than ten pictures and this was mainly because it was so packed you couldn't get to anything.  You couldn't see the games and you couldn't see things on vendors stands.  Or at least. I couldn't but I am not patient and won't queue. There were far fewer of the big display games this year and really the biggest was Big Red Bat's splendid Raphia game using his excellent To the Strongest rules.  I nearly went and bought a load of Victrix pikemen as a result, as I actually have quite a lot of painted Macedonian cavalry and skirmishers from the Society of Ancients Cynoscephalae battle we did with Guildford Wargames Club almost exactly ten years ago, for which I panted sixty Greek figures just in April!  Still, not beyond the bounds of possibility in the future.

I did succumb to the new Victrix EIR Romans and some Little Big Men shield transfers.  I used to have some of the big Steve Sahleh Foundry Romans but I sold them to Big Red Bat some years ago.  I bought the Warlord ones but didn't like them as they were too small to match my (largely) Renegade Celts and Foundry Germans.  These, however look just the job.  I tried to get some in Orc's Nest this week but they have stopped stocking Victrix.  I don't know whether the bag rather than the box was just because they are new out or whether this is a permanent change.  Some of the Victrix boxes were huge but this doesn't offer much protection to delicate plastic components.  I think they are planning to make auxiliaries too, so maybe I will be able to field the mixed chainmail and lorica segmentata units I want to for the invasion of Britain in 43 AD; if they have interchangeable heads, for example.  But do I paint the tunics red or off white?

Some rather different plastics were on display at the Warlord stand with the new plastic Daleks and Cybermen.  You only seemed to be able to get them as part of a game (called Exterminate!, naturally) for £35 which they were selling, which looked far too boardgame-like for me.  Too many tokens in it!  Still, it seemed to be attracting lots of interest.  Also selling well was the new Perry TravelBattle and Mr Robert (Bob) Cordery, who I was delighted to meet for the first time said that if it sold well they might do an ACW one.

The Perry's always have some 3-ups of forthcoming plastic sets on display and this time they were showing those most useful of French cavalry, the Chasseurs a Cheval.  Not for me, I think but Eric the Shed had a huge bag stuffed with boxes of Napoleonic cavalry for his not a skirmish any more Peninsula project.  He has also posted some excellent pictures here.  Getting Salute pictures up is rather like the Beaujolais Nouveau race these days.

More interesting and something of a surprise were these 3-up Perry Zulus.  Neither the Warlord Games nor the old Wargames Factory plastic Zulus were brilliant but these should be excellent.  You can never have enough Zulus.  However, Perry and Warlord used to say that they wouldn't duplicate plastic sets but this is certainly happening now, as was the case with the Zulu Wars British on sale today.

Also attracting a lot of attention was The Drowned Earth team who were running several games on their stand.  The metal figures are really nice but the man there said it wouldn't really work as a solo game, so I think that has meant that I won't buy into this Kickstarte, apart from my other issues with them.

It was one of the small The Drowned Earth boards that I liked the most, from a scenic point of view.  I'm not quite sure what appealed to me so much about it but if I could have taken one home this would have been it.  The game itself seems to also suffer from counter-itis though.  I cannot understand why people spend ages painting figures and making splendid scenery and then cover it in counters or cards.  That is probably the painter versus gamer differentiator I suppose.

On the scenic front I bought two middle eastern mud brick type houses.  One was a 4Ground laser cut one and one was a foam resin one from TableScape, a firm I didn't know.   They have a number of other buildings which I could use for Afghanistan, the Sudan, Egypt or even Darkest Africa.  I will paint them both to match my Renedra one.  I picked up a few bits at the Renedra stand for my ACW project.

So that was really it.  I didn't arrive early enough to get the Black Scorpion pirate Salute special and for the first time I didn't get the Salute free figure either, which was more annoying as she would have gone in my Back of Beyond Bolshevik force. Still, I got more than last year with some: Iron Duke command for my Indian Mutiny British, Perry Afghans, Perry ACW Confederates in frock coats, Renedra worm fencing and 'American style' gravestones for my church model. Forty one figures added to the lead and plastic pile, though.  Could have been worse. I resisted (just) the Crooked Dice female minions, for example, the Vixtrix pikemen and some North Star 1672 figures (the fault of Versailles on TV, although to reflect last night's first episode of series 2 we would have needed a 28mm naked pregnant lady).

The Legatus at far left (picture stolen from Tamsin's blog)

I really enjoyed the bloggers meet (although there were less of us than last year) and it was nice to catch up again with The Wild Goose and hear his plans for the latest Latin American War of Independence figures from his Orinoco Miniatures.  Having spent all yesterday with Colombians I was looking out some of his British from the conflict to finish.  Always nice to see fellow Guildford Wargames Club and Shed Wars gaming ally/opponent Alastair.  I also caught up with the prolific Wargaming Girl, Big Lee and various others.  It was also nice to meet, for the first time, the well travelled Bob Cordery and the endlessly inventive Michael of Victorian Warfare fame.

I got to Salute at 11.30 and was out by 14.00 which was, I think, quite enough, given the bad light, the concrete floors and the number of people.  I am pleased with the things I bought but it is more a targetted shopping expedition now than a gentle saunter looking for inspiration, which it was in the past.  I don't know how much it costs to get a trade tand there but it seems much more corporate than the other shows like Warfare and Colours I attend.  Apart from one stand, the days of the amateur scenics maker, who you could pick up a few trees from, seems to have gone.  Everything is in professionally made boxes these days.  Probably a good thing for the hobby but..   Still, it was good to see quite a few youngsters playing games and more ladies than ever (although a disproportionate number did seem to have hair dyed in various shades of unnatural red).

In 2012 I went to ExCel to watch the fencing at the Olympics with my daughter and, like the Olympics. I wonder whether Salute hasn't now got too bug for its own good.   It is almost an endurance event.  I'll still keep going though, no doubt!

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's Salute Eve...and Death in the Dark Continent

It's Salute (or Sloot as my daughter used to call it) Eve and what better Eve to celebrate with than, in the centenary of Verdun, this fine illustration from La Vie Parisienne.  So, (that is just to annoy Mr Treadaway. who was fulminating about people who begin sentences with "So...") what am I looking for this year?  A restricted list, as ever, but possibly:
  • some Iron Duke command for my further along than I remembered Indian Mutiny British.  
  • Some Perry ACW Confederartes in Frock coats
  • An Artizan North West Frontier gun with crew if someone has some old stock
  • The Black Scorpion Salute special girly pirate (probably will have sold out)
  • The Crooked Dice female minions (probably will have sold out)
  • Victrix EIR Romans and shield transfers.
That is more than enough, especially as 12 more Artizan North West Frontier figures turned up yesterday to enable me to finish my British force (except the mountain gun is still missing!)   I bought into the latest Dark Fables Egyptian Indiegogo this week too, as you can never have enough under-dressed Egyptian girls.  I also backed The Drowned Earth Kickstarter but then cancelled it as I had a panic that I just wouldn't be able to do the figures justice with my increasingly blotchy painting.  I also had a panic over the amount of scenery I would have to buy and whether such a game would lend itself to solo play.  This all started to put me off and then, tipping me over, there were several things on the creator's and the community Facebook page I didn't like.  I'm not one of those people who happily accepts differing views and opinions!   Don't assume everyone agrees with what you agree with and don't expect me to buy into your product if I find other things on your Facebook page which are offensive to me. Or maybe I am just generally grumpy at the moment as I have had too much work to do and not enough painting time!  

Anyway, I was cheered up by the arrival of the new Death in the Dark Continent edition today, with its free African villagers.  I do actually have the rules in their old ring bound version (they are not materially changed) but this is a de-luxe product indeed.  These are big battle rules and I probably have enough Belgians and Azande to try them out (although they use the horrible stand basing. which I will ignore).  More on these another time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An update on my ACW project.

I started back on some ACW figures again yesterday, after my diversion on the North West Frontier.  More about it on my Americas Wargaming blog here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

With an illustration from 1926 on Legatus' Wargames Ladies here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Paint Table Easter Saturday...and resisting temptation

I was very pleased to finish five more figures for my 2nd Afghan War The Men who would be Kings force this week.  Sadly, I mistakenly thought that these would finish a unit (12 men for these rules) but I had only painted five others for this unit so am two short.  Although I have some other painted figures I could have used I like my units to be in similar poses so bunged off an order to North Star to fill the gaps in this and the other unit of British..  

This order will give me some leftovers but I have already decided to build a second force representing troops later in the conflict, where khaki trousers had replaced the blue ones and poshteens were commonly worn.  I can mix my leftovers with these less regulation looking figures for my second army.  Despite the inordinate amount of time it's taking me to paint them the TMWWBK force is only 36 figures plus either a cavalry unit or an artillery piece.  

I am going to have two units of the Royal Surrey Regiment and one of Sikhs plus a Sikh mountain gun, except the gun still hasn't arrived from North Star due to production problems. I might have a look at Salute and see if I can find one.  I am going to paint the artillery in their pre-khaki dark blue with red turbans as I found a period photograph of them on campaign in the early part of the war where they are obviously not yet in khaki.  I want to do a mule train for a gun and am wondering whether I can convert the Perry Miniatures Carlist wars one, given a spare gun.  

Anyway. I had a good day yesterday on the Sikhs and hope to get them finished by the end of the long weekend.  I am finding these a lot easier to paint than the Perry ACW figures but I will get back to these after my Afghan diversion.  With good light and a new Windsor & Newton Series 7 000 brush I got all the horrible straps done today.  I still have shading on the knapsacks, red lines on the trousers, tidying up on loose blobs, bases, varnishing and metal work to do.  Someone was suggesting I try the dreaded dip but, apart from the fact that it is cheating, I find dipped troops tend to have a rather murky look about them. Today my sister is coming over for tea, though, so  I need to have a good bash this morning as Sunday we are going down to the Old Bat's sister in Hampshire.  Guy is hoping my brother in law will have taken delivery of his new Ford Mustang!  

Tries not to think about Louise Redknapp and honey

I don't get hay fever, really, but I have been suffering with some sneezing lately, which is always annoying when trying to paint belts with triple 0 brushes.  Both Guy and Charlotte suffer quite badly but not as badly as my sister who does actually get a fever with it.  In the past, eating local honey has helped Charlotte (it works like a flu jab) but I have always had to order it at great expense from a specialist shop in Clapham.  However, Louise Redknapp was telling the Old Bat that you can get the right sort of honey in the Medicine Garden in Cobham, as she gets really bad hay fever too. Worth trying.

The Old Bat went to the Garden Centre yesterday to look at pumps for our new girly water feature and I decided to tag along at the last minute as I remembered they had a big aquarium section where people from around here can buy Koi carp at £200 a time.  I got an excellent selection of plastic plants for my planned jungle bases.  Eric the Shed very kindly offered to cut me some bases for them but I don't want to put him to any trouble as he has already done so much for my wargaming these past few years.  I have found a big pile of old CDs and am going to have a go at using these as I remember seeing something about someone using these in the past in one of the magazines.  I also remember that you have to score them to make things stick to the better.  I think I am going to have to get a hot glue gun too, given suggestions on my last post.  Fortunately, the Old Bat has used one, although she happily told me that "you will get third degree burns from it!"  I remember studying the case Smith V Leech Brain (1962) where someone got molten metal on them, then later developed cancer and died.  I am sure that hot glue will give the same result.  It's probably deliberate on the Old Bat's part.  If she gets me a hot glue gun for Easter I will know...

More on scenics in that I am assembling the Renedra mud brick house which I bought at last year's Salute (I think).  This is the fourth one of these kits I have assembled and although the concept is good they really are horrible to put together,  Maybe I was just spoiled by building a lot of Hasegawa aircraft kits years ago but the fit of the parts is awful and I am having to use a lot of filler on it. I might have a look at the 4Ground wooden ones at Salute.  Just as I worry about the differences in jungle in South America and the Congo so I worry that, actually, mud brick houses in Afghanistan, Egypt and the Sudan do look different but I doubt whether anyone else does.

I am looking forward to Salute next week and I am hoping there will be another Bloggers meet up, although I haven't seen anything yet about one. I don't think that I am after any figures but will be looking for scenic items, although nothing too big as I have to carry it home on the train.  Eric the Shed is planning to go on to the newly reopened National Army Museum afterwards but I usually get to Salute a bit later.  to avoid the queue, so won't be able to fit it in.  I used to live in Chelsea and just along from the NAM was a really good restaurant I used to go to called La Tante Claire, which was one of London's few three Michelin star restaurants (Pierre Koffmann was the chef) at the time.  It closed some years ago, though and is now Gordon Ramsay's main restaurant in London.  Last time I went Helen Worth, from Coronation Street was there (she has a house nearby, I think). 

Even though I am painting much more than last year I still have a huge lead and plastic pile but that doesn't stoe me looking at new tempting things.  The ability to resist temptation is not one of my defining characteristics ;whether it comes in a blister pack, a bottle, or a cocktail dress.  I am intrigued by North Star's new plastic fantasy range, which will be coming out later in the year and will consist of dwarves, elves and goblins.  The pictures of the dwarves look good but I think I can resist these as I have so many Lord of the Rings figures to paint.  

I do like dwarves though and the only Warhammer figures I ever painted were some dwarves (above).  I bought a big army box but sold them all in the end as I didn't like any of the opponent figures in Warhammer.  Wargamed Foundry (I think) used to have a nice series of Norse Dwarves some years ago but as I have actually painted some Lord of the Rings ones I will not be sidetracked by these figures!  Definitely.

The next figures I must resist are Black Scorpion's new Wild West figures for their new Tombstone rules which are the subject of a Kickstarter (which was funded in four minutes!).  I have always had a hankering to do something set in the Wild West and I like Black Scorpion's very unhistoric pirates and have even painted some (above).

These western figures are also bordering on fantasy (especially the women) but their resin figures are really nice to paint so I am quite tempted by this one, especially as I can see some of them turning up in Victorian London for In her Majesty's Name.  Speaking of which, I definitely want to get the new IHMN Gothic supplement.

Finally, one Kickstarter I am also having trouble resisting is The Drowned Earth one (it begins tomorrow), despite it being a very different game and setting from that which I am usually interested in.  This has been well marketed with some stunning supporting artwork and some very interesting figures.  I am not sure what it is that I like about this; maybe it takes me back to the days when I read a lot of science fiction but I like the small factions and the variety in the figures.  Whether I will be able to do them justice with paint is another question.

Today's wallpaper is A Young girl Sleeping by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) or Une jeune Italienne à demi-nue, couchée volupteusement sur un lit de repos, où elle s'endormie as it was described when sold in 1776 for a thousand livres (the equivalent of about £10,000 based on the value of gold then).  This was an early nude by Fragonard, painted when he was in his most Boucheresque phase during his first trip to Italy from 1756 to 1761, so he would have been in his twenties at the time.  In fact, it was the only nude he painted in this period but is a forerunner of the tastefully erotic work he would do later in life.

The picture disappeared from the record at the end of the eighteenth century and reappeared in 2014 when it was put up for auction.  Due to a piece of luck it could be positively identified, as someone, at the original 1766 auction had made a quick sketch of the painting in their catalogue and this had been preserved in the Bibliothèque National.  It was sold in 2014 for the comparatively bargain price pf $395.000.

Today's music comes from the period the painting was created.  The eight symphonies of William Boyce (1711-1779) like Fragonard's painting were also not known for many years and weren't performed again after his lifetime until an edition of them was published in 1928.  They are very melodic and mood lifting.  It is impossible to feel fed up when listening to Boyce, however much filler you are having to shovel into a Renedra biilding!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: Back at it

So, having had a varnish disaster with some of my figures I did manage to get some repair work done the other week.  I repainted the British jackets, trousers and black parts.  So I just have the rifles  and the stripes on the trousers to repaint now.  While doing this repair work I got on with the NCO, so hope to move them along today as it is bright and sunny (that means the paint dries on my palette really quickly, though).

This shows my 2nd Afghan War figures under way at present.  Still no sign of the missing mountain gun from North Star, though. Somewhere I have the Renedra mud brick house so maybe I should dig that out so at least I have a backdrop to photograph the figures against.

Baby O.  Intelligent.

Last Saturday I couldn't paint as I went up to Oxford with my sister to see my cousin and his baby.  My cousins emigrated with my aunt to Australia when I was at College in 1980 so I only see them sporadically.  He is a journalist and lately has been the European correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald, living in North London. I haven't been to see them there, as I try not to go north of Oxford Street in London in case I catch a nasty case of Guardian,or corduroy.  His wife has got a job as a lecturer in one of the Oxford colleges so they are renting a house in Oxford.  Much more civilised.  A bonus was that his brother (who works for a well known IT organisation in San Francisco (why is it that all Australians try and leave their country as much as possible?) was there too.  It was nice to have an intelligent conversation with the baby over a very good lunch for once, rather than listening to the Old Bat's inane prattling about her pond (we left her at home, as she has no intelligent conversation).  Guy joined us and is now home for Easter so that will push the food shopping bills up considerably.

Baby O (I won't give her real name as she is probably the only person in England with it - it is a real name, just very, very unusual) was a well behaved delight.  I think she is my first cousin once removed,  She also, unlike my incredibly fussy children, eats everything put if front of her.  She scoffed about three slices of bread, quite a lot of cod and a lot of linguine with crab, chilli and lemon.   Guy won't even eat baked beans as they are "too spicy". She really likes lemon and happily sucked on about five wedges of it, to the extent that the waiter brought her a little plate of them.

The restaurant we went to, Gee's, is just a short walk from their house in North Oxford and is, amazingly, in the next road to the one I lived in in my third year. To get there we had to walk down North Parade Avenue which used to be the site of an Italian restaurant called Luna Caprese where I went quite a bit (I was making money by selling drawings in the third year) with my girlfriend from nearby St Hugh's College.  Most of the tables at Gee's are in a bright conservatory and it really is a very nice place for lunch.  I had actually been there once before, about eight years ago, when I was interviewing a girl from the Oxford University basketball team as my summer intern.  She was very fit and got the job with no problem, partly because she ate properly and didn't pick at salad!

Talking of greenery, I was in Chessington Garden Centre looking at possible ponds for the Old Bat (she sat in the car as she took a job there once but only lasted four days so she won't go inside there any more) when Charlotte wanted to go and have a look at the fish and reptile house.  While in there I got some 'tropical' plans to start some scenic bases for the Lost World.  Now even the most basic scenic item is beyond my hobby skills so I expect they will sit there for the next four years.  I just have no idea how to even start attaching these to a base - or how to make a base.

Oddly, my new favourite TV programme is called The Repair Shop, where carefully selected members of the public bring in various broken objects with a heart warming story attached and very clever craftspeople make them as good as new (except the monkey - that wasn't a total success.  "Failure!" chortled the Old Bat in malevolent delight as the poor monkey's broken mouth opening mechanism defeated the repairer).  The Old Bat is quite clumsy and is always breaking stuff which I then have to repair but other than being able to open a bottle of superglue (and that sometimes defeats me) I have no idea what I am doing.  I think that this is the appeal of the show.  These people are really clever. It's like Strictly Come Dancing.  I will never be able to dance a single ballroom step but enjoy watching experts who make it look easy.  I did, actually, have a ballroom dancing lesson with the Old Bat before our wedding, as she expected me to dance on the day (I didn't).  Both she and the dance instructor were incredulous at my lack of ability.  "Anyone can dance!", he had said confidently, at the beginning of the lesson.  He wasn't saying that at the end.  "Anyone can make a scenic base!" Actually, I have no idea where to start.

So, imagine how delighted I was to see a link to a YouTube video, in the Warlord Games newsletter, giving  a link to The Terrain Tutor who has some lovely jungle bases.  Well, I started to watch one of these but I had to stop as I couldn't stand his speaking style.  This is because. yeah? he breaks up just about every sentence, yeah? with the word, yeah?  It is unbelievably annoying. Interestingly, when Darcey Bussell started as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing she had the same annoying vocal tic (or at least the Sloane Ranger equivalent, "yuh?").  However, by the second episode she had stopped this (due to total derision in the press).  The Terrain Tutor also waves his arms around for emphasis like an Orangutan who has been living in an Italian zoo. No more Terrain Tutor for me, unless he sorts this out!

Today's music is the enjoyable contemporary orchestral piece The Seven Wonders Suite, by the Scottish composer Stuart Mitchell,  It's very good painting music and is like the soundtrack to a film

Today's wallpaper distraction is Early Morning by the Irish artist Sir William Orpen, which was painted in 1922.  The story of the girl, Yvonne Aubicque (his mistress), is fascinating and involves a TV show revelation, Grand Prix motor racing, dog breeding, WW2 French resistance, MI6 and an amazing twist. You can read about her on Legatus' Wargames Armies.