Sunday, November 11, 2018

Commemorating 100 years since the end of the Great War by La Vie Parisienne

There are many serious commemorations of the end of the Great War happening at present so, instead, I will present this rather lighter tribute from the French magazine La Vie Parisienne. This issue appeared on November 10th 1918; the day before the Armistice was signed. The ‘elite troop’ type illustrated is a grenadier, in this picture by Georges Léonnec (1881-1940). She is holding a pomegranate (grenade in French) which, of course, engendered the name of the hand held explosive device due to its shape. In addition, split pomegranates are symbols of suffering and rebirth, as well as being fertility symbols.

It is typical of an illustration from La Vie Parisienne that it gets all this symbolism into what otherwise looks like a pin up (American troops were banned from buying the magazine in case paintings of ladies in a state of déshabillé overcame their moral sense). France lost over 4% of its population in the war, mainly young men, of course, and the magazine seems to be saying that the ‘elite troop’ ladies of France would have to help repopulate the country to contribute to its rebirth.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Back to Middle Earth, a painting challenge, time at Brooklands and an unexpected trip to Mordor

The Legatus hasn't being posting on his blogs much of late for the shocking reason that he has actually been painting some wargames figures!  So what has engendered this return to painting after a very poor year?  It was actually prompted by two new ranges of plastic fantasy figures: the imminent Fireforge Forgotten World Kickstarter and the expansion of the North Star Oathmark figures.

I was very tempted by both these ranges but put off by the Fireforge ones as one of the first two planned armies was for undead.    Now I don't get the whole zombie/undead thing at all; it is just a genre I have no interest in.  My particular friend, Angela, vaguely remembered some Games Workshop issue last year with politically correct people from PETA objecting to fur on their figures and GW pointed out that their figures represented fictional races.   Was, she posited, (having studied philosophy) having undead opponents to your armies more ethically acceptable to some people as you weren't depicting conflict between humans?  Did this, also, make them happier to watch horribly violent TV and films as the battles were with creatures not people (former people, perhaps). Was it, she continued, like people who watch soft core sex scenes but claim that they don't like hard core sex scenes; a moral cop-out?  If you are going to watch people having sex, watch people really having sex not some, literally. emasculated version. I said I think that most wargamers just buy the nicest looking figures they can.  Well, I do anyway.  This discussion, however, coincided with the release by Games workshop of their Battle of Pellenor Field boxed set.

Carefully selected still of Ms Brook with a lovely pair of jugs

I had a fantasy revelation (which didn't feature Kelly Brook for once - goodness me she was looking ripe on Celebrity Antiques Road Trip last week). I have hundreds of GW Lord of the Rings figures and have even painted a lot of them.  Why mess around with other similar medieval fantasy worlds when I had already got figures for Middle Earth?  I managed to find the box on sale online for about £62; a considerable saving on the £80 asking price.  It is a big box with lots of plastic figures and a complete new version of the rule book. My daughter was enthusiastic and we have played LotR games before.  I decided to get going and paint some of the figures immediately, callously abandoning the Peninsula British and the Byzantines.  Bizarrely, given what I have said earlier, I started on the Army of the Dead and soon had the twenty figures in the box built.  I actually thought that they were such nice figures I wish I could have painted them in full colour but they have to be ghostly so I went down to Games Workshop in Epsom and bought some paint.

Under way with metal and plastic extra recruits

Oh. dear.  this is where it all went wrong.  I decided to use Citadel acrylics so that I could get the right colours. Then I realised that I had no idea how to paint using acrylics.  Did you use them straight out of the pot?  Did you have to mix them with water?  After undercoating them black and looking at other people's attempts online I saw that most people dry brushed them in pale grey.  How on earth do you dry brush with thick, gloopy acrylics?  If you thin them then they are too wet to dry brush!  I was getting very frustrated. I found the paint filling all the recesses. It was horrible. Then I tried to over-paint in a colour I thought was  the right shade of ghostly green.  This paint was even worse and had gritty lumps in it.  I went into another Games Workshop and the man told me that you had to mix it with something called medium, not water.  What? It seems Citadel paints are all different types now, not just generic paint. This man saved me and provided me with the right type of paint (I had bought one called 'dry' - I have no idea what it is for) which was no use.  It seems you need A-level chemistry to use Citadel paints now.  He also recommended I paint over them first with a dark green wash to recover all the recesses. Miraculously, it worked (I have never used a wash before). I carefully picked out details with the proper paint and highlighted the metal bits with a metallic silver and they look...well, OK at best.

Nearly done

I decided that twenty figures didn't look much like an army so bought ten more plastic (you only get ten figures in a box now!) and ten metal ones from eBay (I didn't even know that they had issued the Army of the Dead in plastic which is why I didn't have any in my collection).  Games Workshop were out of stock of the King of the Dead but I had one in my collection from the old Battle Games in Middle Earth magazine.

Here they all are completed.  I painted forty-one figures in just under six weeks which is not bad considering I had only painted four for the whole year before that.  At this point a new Facebook group I have joined, Sculpting Painting and Gamingdecided to launch a painting challenge for November; suggesting people paint for half an hour a day.  Inspired by my recent painting progress I decided to launch into the 36 orcs in the Pellenor boxed set.


Progress is going quite well on these too but having doubled the number of Army of the Dead figures I had to order some more orcs too.  These are being painted in good old Humbrol enamels! The first seven days of November I did manage at least 30 minutes a day but on Thursday I was at the Burne-Jones exhibition at the Tate Gallery and Friday and today I was in Oxford for a dinner of Alumni from my school who attended Oxford.  It is not like me to attend a men only event but it turned out to be great fun even if there was no-one from my year there.  There was someone from two years below me who remembered me as the 'boy who used to draw pictures of naked women' (surely not).

I stayed at the relentlessly trendy Malmaison Hotel, which used to be Oxford Prison until 1996.  I have stayed at a Malmaison before (in Manchester - yes, I went there once) and the chain suffers from a overly precious self-aggrandisement and really terrible levels of lighting.  I kept crashing into objects as I couldn't see. Still, it was nice enough and the breakfast was very good.

2 Litre LC Supercharged Lagonda (1931)

Other than Lord of the Rings painting (I had to give up today as it went black this afternoon and poured with rain so I only managed four minites - hence this post) I have spent quite a bit of time visiting the nearby Brooklands museum.  Guy and I joined the Brooklands Trust in August, as it means you get in for free and we have already saved the cost of membership in just a few months.  It means we have access to the members' bar and balcony overlooking the site. Brooklands was the world's first purpose built motor racing circuit and was, for many years, the site of the Hawker aviation factory.  Over a third of all Hawker Hurricanes were built there.

There aren't many famous things that come from my home town of Staines, where I lived until I was in my twenties and where my sister still lives.  Linoleum was invented there and I remember a huge lino factory in the town when I was younger. The actress Gabrielle Anwar was from Staines (or rather Laleham, the posh end, where I lived) and went to the same junior school as I did. As a sixteen year old she appeared in the Staines and Egham News in this picture, saying how she was going to be an actress. I remember thinking at the time that you have no hope of becoming an actress and you are only in the newspaper because you look nice in a dance leotard.  I couldn't believe it when I next heard of her and she was starring in a film (Scent of a Woman (1992) ) with Al Pacino. Other than that, the band Hard-fi,  and comedian Bobby Davro (whose daughter was in my son's class at his (posh) school) complete a short and motley list.

The most famous thing, therefore, to come out of Staines (or Staines-upon-Thames, as it pretentiously renamed itself in 2012) was the Lagonda motor car. Guy and I were at Brooklands in September and they had a beautiful example there, complete with its radiator badge proudly proclaiming its town of manufacture.  My uncle Len worked at the factory (now the site of Staines' Sainsbury's) and my father-in-law owned two Lagondas in the past.  Most famously, Captain Hastings, in the ITV Poirot series (I am currently working my way through all of them), drove a 1932 two litre low chassis tourer, like the one we saw at Brooklands.

Vickers Viking replica (twin wing floats under the nose with wings against the wall on the left)

We had another look around the aircraft display hangars and found something I remembered from the days when all the aircraft were jammed into an old corrugated iron shed, before the recent museum expansion.  It was so jammed in before you couldn't photograph it and although they have removed the wings for display, it is now possible to get a shot of the replica Vickers Viking amphibian.  

The replica was built for the film The People That Time Forgot (1977) and featured on the poster.  In the film it was piloted by a character played by Shane Rimmer, who was the voice of Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds!

Awk! Awk! Awk!

In the film, the amphibian, as they call it, is attacked by pterodactyls and while our heroes set off to try and find Doug McClure, Rimmer's character sits with the plane (which he manages to land on an impossibly boulder strewn landscape), taking pot shots at the flying reptiles.

Unable to refrain from making comment about twin floats

I didn't see this film when it first came out, so only caught it some years later on, no doubt, Sunday afternoon TV, where my appreciation of the Vickers Viking was overshadowed somewhat (as were her feet) by the magnificent Dana Gillespie, as just the sort of cavegirl you want to discover in a lost world. 

Royal Canadian Air Force Vickers Viking IV

Only 34 of these aircraft were built and the Brooklands replica is the only full sized one of its type that exists today (there is a 7/8th sized replica in Canada which was also built for a film).  The prototype crashed in 1919, killing its pilot Sir John Alcock, who worked for Vickers, who had made the first successful non-stop crossing of the Atlantic (with Sir Arthur Brown) six months earlier.

There is also a full sized, flying replica of Alcock and Brown's trans-Atlantic Vickers Vimy at Brooklands museum today, too and at the recent First World War commemoration day they got it out of the hangar and ran the engines, which certainly generated an impressive sound.  Next weekend its militaria day so I will probably go along again, even though it means missing Warfare (I really don't need any more figures!)

The only sight in Iceland I expected to see

I did have an unexpected work trip in September when I had to go to a country I had never been to before, Iceland, (my seventy-first country).  The weather was supposed to be cold and wet so I wasn't expecting to see much of the place other than the hotel and football stadium (they are trying to finance a new one, hence my presence) where my meetings were.  I had a meeting with the Icelandic Football Association about this and met the current chairman.  Now what I know about football could be written on the back of a very small postcard ('it's a game for primitive thugs' as my father told me just before I went to one of the only two matches I have attended: the 1970 Schoolboy International against (West) Germany (we won 3-0, shockingly).  I had no idea, therefore, that the bright lawyer who is now chairman of the Icelandic FA, Guðni Bergsson was a well known footballer in the nineties for Tottenham and Bolton Wanderers. 'That must have been great,' said someone I met in London afterwards. Er...

Fortunately, I met a very nice lady architect at the accompanying conference who didn't seem to mind that I had been chatting up her daughter and the next day we had a trip to the Snæfellsjökull where I was very excited by the sight of the volcano from Journey to the Centre of the Earth! I actually expressed the opinion that I had no desire to ever visit Iceland, given it looks like Mordor, in one of my blog posts a few years ago but I grudgingly admit to being rather impressed by its stark landscape.

Things were also helped immeasurably by the fact that the weather was unexpectedly (and atypically for the time of year) very good and that the lady architect and the Icelandic chamber paid for most of my meals and drinks (Icelandic beer is very good which it should be at £10 a glass).

It was certainly nice on a business trip to be driven around and see some of the sights, something I rarely get to do as I am usually stuck in some ministry or other.  Iceland does feel like the edge of the world, however. There is a small possibility of another overseas trip before Christmas but this would be back to Botswana.  My passport has actually expired so I am going to have to run around next week and get a new one sorted out.

Sleeping Beauty (1910)

Today's wallpaper distraction is Sleeping Beauty by Bernard Hall (1859-1935).  Hall was born in Liverpool but spent much of his life in Australia, where this picture was painted, and was the director of the National Gallery of Melbourne for forty one years.  His works are traditional; nudes, interiors and still life and he had no time for modern art at all.  He died in London during  a rare working trip back to England.

Today's music is Canteloube's Sons of the Auvergne, music inspired by a very different volcanic landscape.  I have the Victoria de los Angeles version and although I don't like her voice as much as Netania Davrath, the de los Angeles version has wonderful orchestral accompaniment by the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureaux which just tips it.  I first heard the famous Baïlèro when it was used for a Dubonnet TV advert back in the seventies (which featured Richard Stilgoe playing some Bohemian artist in a bucolic landscape).  I wonder what happened to him?  He is one of those professional smart alecs (like the equally annoying Stephen Fry) which only Cambridge University could produce.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Three quarters of a million visits...

Some time on Sunday this blog passed 750,000 visits and so I apologise to all of you whose time has been wasted by reading my drivel.  It really was supposed to be about wargaming but over the years has morphed into something very much less focussed: rather like my life as a whole, I suppose.  But, look, I have stuff on the painting table and hope to finish some more figures before the end of the year. 

At least I have managed to avoid going to Saudi this weekend by cleverly letting my passport expire, although I have been informed that I need to get a new one rapidly!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Miniature Wargaming The Movie: a review

When I saw the Kickstartee for Miniature Wargaming The Movie at the end of 2015 I decided to back it purely because it was unlikely that anyone else would be making a documentary about wargaming anytime soon. I had no great expectations about it and, as the months of production turned into years I mentally pretty much wrote it off, especially when they had to launch another Kickstarter to get extra funding.  It was taking nearly as long to make as Cleopatra and some of the things filmmaker (presumably he saw it as a showreel for his future projects) Joseph Piddington had issues with, such as the cost of stock footage, baffled me. Why, I wondered, did you need to buy expensive footage of wars? It should be about war gaming not war. It was starting to look like one of those Kickstarters that were a litany of delays and excuses.

I was surprised, therefore, when the DVD dropped through my letterbox last week. Yesterday my computer decided to have one of its periodic issues when it struggles to install updates and while it sorted itself out I sat down to play a bit of the film at lunchtime. Much to my surprise it was good enough that I sat through all 105 minutes of it. I nearly didn’t bother as it starts slowly with a group of modern re-enactors in a wood.  Re-enacting has nothing to do with wargaming, I thought (discuss). Then we had the first of what seemed like endless aerial drone shots of market towns (far, far too much of this) placing each of the chosen people, who were to be the principal subjects, in their environment. I soon came across the second problem that I had.  There were a number of onscreen captions which popped up from time to time offering further snippets of information. However, some of these disappeared before I could read them and all of them were really difficult to read.  I am 58 years old and only have 70% eyesight.  Even on a reasonably sized widescreen TV I couldn’t read these as the font used a very fine line and it was too small.  I did manage to read one which told me that the world’s first wargames club was set up in Oxford University in 1874, which I appreciated, as a former member of the Oxford University Dungeons and Dragons Society from 1979.

Sensibly, the director realised that to give the film wider appeal it needed some personal interest stories; people whose wargaming projects we could follow during the programme, although of these only two were wargamers only, planning to attend an international tournament in Norway.  The others were manufacturers and I think the main fundamental issue I have with the film is that it was much more about manufacturers not players.  Although we were offered glimpses of bigger players, like Warlord, the focus, perhaps accurately, was on garage style one man (or one man and a long suffering partner) operations.  These threads, like much of the film, proved to be rather downbeat and told you more about the trials and tribulations of running a small business rather than wargaming itself.

With these chosen protagonists I did have another problem in that I couldn’t hear much of what they were saying. Partly this may have been down to recording but also, to a certain extent, it was the subjects not enunciating as clearly as they might.  I have done quite a bit of TV and a lot of speeches and presentations and you do have to make a conscious effort to speak more clearly when being recorded, as I was told in my media training.  Or maybe, like my eyesight, my hearing is going too.

Thank goodness, then, for Henry Hyde, whose section on the history of wargaming was excellent and was more like what I was expecting the whole film to be like.  I have to say that I liked the animated graphics too; it should be said that there was nothing about the production that looked low budget. When the two wargamers went off to their Norwegian tournament the camera went along too. It was not the filmmaker’s fault that the big international tournament turned out to be a dozen blokes in a Norwegian wood shed (sjed?) but it was another slightly downbeat thread.  Still, they did film Salute and follow the progress of one man and his scenery stand there.

This was another fundamental issue with the film; in that this character, an ex-soldier, not surprisingly traumatised by his experiences in Kosovo, had used wargaming as a way to fight depression. It was interesting to see that he took this up at the Combat Stress rehabilitation centre, Tyrwhitt House, which is less than a mile from where I live. This is a good story but, obviously recognising documentary gold, the director dwelt for far too long on it and it unbalances the film, particularly the last third. There was a war in Kosovo, OK, but we really didn’t need two long (and no doubt expensive) clips of Bill Clinton making speeches about it.  It’s like the director thought, oh damn, I am stuck with funding for this silly wargames film but I really want to make a BBC2 documentary about fighting depression. Wargaming was obviously pivotal to this man’s recovery but the war story element and his subsequent breakdown unbalanced the message somewhat.

No doubt because of the unexpected length of the project, there was a chance to revisit some of the protagonists eighteen month later which was interesting but not necessarily very uplifting.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed the professional standard of the film with its excellent animation and good photography, although we could have done with less drone shots. There was also one sequence of a man walking down an avenue towards the camera and I thought, after several long seconds, that we were going to get a re-enactment of Omar Sharif’s first appearance in Lawrence of Arabia.  ‘Cut! Cut!’  I shouted at the screen.  I also had trouble with the unreadable captions and some of the sound.  I enjoyed the interviews and behind the scenes looks at some of the bigger companies and figures in the hobby.  Not ‘The Hobby’, they were conspicuously absent, although much referred to by previous employees.

There were some things I expected but weren’t really covered; such as a little on the mechanics of wargaming; skirmish versus big battles, units, command, morale, shooting, melee, scenarios and campaigns.  No-one watching this would have any idea of how wargames work. This, however, finally begs the question: who is this film aimed at?  Not much for the committed wargamer but equally a little baffling for the complete newcomer.

A valiant effort, very professionally realised (the section on YouTube videos on wargaming had me recalling quite how cringingly unwatchable nearly all these amateur efforts are) with a few interesting things I didn’t know.  Slightly downbeat, because of the particular personalities featured, so that the subliminal message almost came across that if you are a socially inept, sad loser you might enjoy wargaming which probably just confirms to the rest of the world what they thought about it anyway.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Redcoats and what's been going on.

I haven't posted for over two months because I haven't managed any painting at all.  There were a number of reasons for this: some major work crises, a member of the Old Bat's family being very ill, some problems with my PC which meant I was on a laptop for two weeks (my poor eyes) and the extreme heat not being conducive to painting. However, last weekend I actually had some time on Saturday, so I set to for an hour (the maximum time I can manage, now).  I should be finishing my Byzantines (actually I did a bit on them yesterday) and my Carthaginian elephant crew but they all have shield transfers that need doing and I am putting that off until I feel braver.

Instead, I picked out a random box of part painted figures from my in-progress pile (now tidily sat on the shelf behind me) and this turned out to be some of Orinoco Miniatures British Legion for the Latin American Wars of Independence. This range coming out coincided with me having to travel to Colombia a lot and next year (August 7th) they are having a big celebration of 200 years since the key Battle of Boyacá, which saw the defeat of the Spanish and the subsequent creation of Gran Colombia. So far, the Orinoco Miniatures range isn't complete (they are lacking Spanish cavalry (although they have been sculpted) but at the speed I paint that doesn't really matter. The key thing was to find some figures with no shields!

Now, you may think, what are those armless plastics lurking in the background?  Not Napoleonics again?  The period I have said I was going to abandon at least half a dozen times. Well, it was like this.  I went up to London last Friday to meet someone who wanted some advice on something to do with work. I waited for the woman outside where we were supposed to meet, in the sun, in 30 degree heat and after half an hour I decided to forget it. As a man who I used to work with in Switzerland once said: "every minute you are late you are wasting one minute of the other person's life".  Turn up on time!  You're not Italian!  Sweltering and angry (I am increasingly angry about everything and I wasn't exactly Mr happiness and light before) I realised that I wasn't that far from Orc's Nest so thought I could pick up August's wargames magazines.  They had them and I went upstairs to see what plastic figures they had (less and less every time I go).   I wondered what would cheer me up (it's like my friend Sophie and shoes - you don't need 147 pairs of shoes (yes, really) but if buying them makes you happy...).  Well, I thought, my overheated brain operating on dehydrated logic (fuzzy logic), as I am painting British infantry from 1819 if I get British Napoleonic Infantry they will use the same colours.  Congratulating myself on my brilliance, I happily skipped off back to Waterloo Station (ironically) with that warm feeling you get from knowing that you have a box of Perry Miniatures in your bag. It's not quite as good a feeling as knowing that you have a bottle of Cloudy Bay in your bag or Miss Vietnam waiting for you in your hotel room but it still cheered me up a lot, especially as I hadn't had to talk for two hours about developments in infrastructure finance in Latin America to some ungrateful and disorganised, sponging bint.

Mostly armless

Back home, of course, reality dawned and I wondered what on earth happened to cause this state of affairs; like that time at the infrastructure conference in Dublin when, after a night drinking Bushmills with some insurance brokers and going to some Irish musical evening I woke up the next day to find a naked lady journalist in my bath.  How did that happen?

The first question,with this set, of course, is whether to do Waterloo or the Peninsula. Now much of my early wargaming was Waterloo, with hundreds of Airfix plastics and scratchbuilt models of Hougomont (not by me, by my clever friend Bean Kid from some instructions in Military Modelling - I paid him £5, I think and a copy of Penthouse) and La Belle Alliance to go with my Airfix La Haye Sainte.  But, as Mr Mike Siggins pointed out on my Facebook page this week, in doing Waterloo "you are digging a hole for yourself".  Not so much a hole as the Grand Canyon.  So, as you can see by the hats (I've always thought the Belgic shako was a bit silly, anyway) I have decided to go for the Peninsula.  Now the eagle eyed among you will notice that my close up of the paint table figures does not match the one further up the page.  Where, you almost certainly are not asking, is the British Legion; the spark that provoked the Napoleonic purchase in the first place?  The answer is, that they are back in the 'in progress' box. This is because I have started on the British and have decided to drop everything else and concentrate.  Hollow laugh.

I looked at the Peninsula folder on my computer and, in the May when Charlotte was born (1995) I had looked for a small battle in the Peninsular war to paint plastic figures for. I had settled on the Battle of Barossa, in 1811; this being, of course, the battle where Sergeant Patrick Masterson, of the 87th, captured Britain's first Eagle, from the French 8th Ligne.  Sorry, Sharpie. I even had an order of battle against which I had marked how many figures I had completed.  Now, given I don't like fictitious battles, this looks quite achievable in a decade or so.  At 1:33 (which is the ratio I had chosen for my plastics) you would need 133 figures on the British side; mostly infantry with only a few cavalry (10 figures) and two guns.  Oh and no Highlanders! So, time to start!

I am notorious for painting figures and not units, which may well be one of the issues in me rarely finishing a unit. When I do set out to paint a unit it usually goes better (tries to ignore his ACW project from last year).  So what I needed was a British infantry unit to paint for the battle of Barossa. The biggest British unit at Barossa was the 87th Foot, The Prince of Wales Irish, with some 820 men which, at 1:33 equates to 25 figures. Not at all impossible. So the 87th it is and I even ordered the Victrix ensign for them, which arrived today. There were also 750 men of the 95th Rifles at Barossa too, so the four figures in the box will need boosting, so I sent off an order for Perry Miniatures for some metal Rifles reinforcements and some mounted Colonels too.   I'm not even going to think about the French yet, as I am going to need 213 infantry but only 12 cavalry (dragoons - hooray!). Warlord (the Sky Team of wargaming) have an offer on their Early French foot at the moment but I don't know if their figures are any good as I have never bought any of their Napoleonics.  I have read some iffy reviews of some of them.

I have made progress this week, basing and undercoating the whole unit (apart from waiting for the Colonel (actually Lt Colonel Hugh Gough, later Field Marshal, Sir Hugh, Viscount Gough) from Perry Miniatures). I am not able to paint at the speed of the peerless Eric the Shed but while eschewing the dip I have decided to go for a wargames standard and will take some shortcuts on these. I have started by (grits teeth) deciding not to paint the figures' eyes and also leaving the arms off, initially, so as to be better able to get at the straps. I will also paint the packs separately.  Victrix do transfers for packs and canteens but I won't be getting those either (well maybe for the 28th as they had a plate on the back of their shakos).  So by this afternoon I had got the faces painted and shaded and the first shade on the jackets (remembering to do the officers and sergeant in scarlet).

Barossa (or Chiclana as the French call it) 5th March 1811 

This painting of the battle is by Louis-François Lejeune (1775-1848), who was a soldier (eventually becoming a général de brigade and Davout's chief-of-staff) and took his paints on campaign with him.  Although this painting wasn't done until 1824 he was on active service in the Peninsular and made many sketches while on campaign, giving his depiction of troops an authenticity other artists lacked.  He does not, for example, like a lot of contemporary artists, have the British in Belgic shakos. He left the army in 1813 after sustaining a number of wounds in battle and devoted his life to painting, also becoming the mayor of Toulouse in 1841.

So what else have I been up to since my previous post on May 19th? Not that you care but I am going to tell you anyway.  Well, I spent valuable painting time washing up as our dishawasher packed up and despite three vists from the Dishwasher Doctor he couldn't save the machine (it was nine years old and sometimes we run it two or three times a day if the children are home, as we all eat completely different meals). It took two weeks before a new one arrived which was very character building for the Old Bat.  Charlotte refused to help by washing the numerous pots and pans she gets dirty when making vegetarian sausage chilli.  "You're the housewife," she said to the Old Bat. "I'm on holiday!  What else do you do all day?"  This did not go down too well.  Now washing up by hand to the standards of the Old Bat is not a simple matter.  You can't just swill them around in a washing up bowl of soapy water (I have only just learned that the UK's use of washing up bowls inside their kitchen sinks is unusual - you must get lots of broken crockery, Johnny Foreigner) and then rinse.  Oh no.  You have to use boiling water (and super industrial washing up gloves as a result) which needs constantly changing.  Before we had the dishwasher the Old Bat would spend an hour and half every evening washing up but that was before she discovered Love Island (really?).

Back at home, the following week, I had a phone call early one morning.  The Old Bat picked it up and said: "It's Gerry Embleton for you."  Well, I was a bit shocked.  I had ordered this picture (from an Osprey) from the Illustration Art Gallery a few weeks before and they said it would be delayed because it was in Switzerland. I wasn't expecting the artist to ring me up but it turns out he lives there.  He was very apologetic and said that, unfortunately, he couldn't find the painting anywhere and he suspected someone had stolen it from one of his exhibitions.  We had a long chat about painting, wargaming, painting military figures (which he used to do as well) and working for Osprey (which he no longer does).  I actually didn't mind about the painting being lost (I did get a refund) as I had the opportunity to talk to one of my favourite illustrators, whose work I had appreciated since the pictures he did for Look & Learn back in the sixties and seventies.  It quite made my day.

As the heatwave continued I found myself locked in my study working on a series of big reports and proposals in the gloom I have to experience when the sun is out, as I have to have a blackout blind drawn down and the desk light on or I can't see my computer screen.  We had a whole series of deadlines to hit which made 12 hour days, seven days a week for over a month.  I basically didn't leave the house, so when I did I was sort of shocked by how hot it had become in the heat of the day. The thermometer in my study was reading 32 degrees first thing in the morning.

I realised how hot it had got when we all went to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which was part of Guy's 21st birthday present, held over from March.  It was just baking and I started to feel quite odd, despite guzzling bottle after bottle of water. Guy has no patience with older people and so I wasn't allowed to sit down and have lunch at any of the appealing looking pop up restaurants. The Old Bat does not approve of eating out, which she thinks is a terrible waste of money.  I am not a petrol head, have never owned a car and don't enjoy driving but I appreciate cars from an aesthetic standpoint, particularly the older ones.  There were a lot of cars there and while I wasn't that impressed by all the supercars, as living where I do you see them all the time anyway, but I enjoyed seeing the historic cars, including one of the three Mustangs which they used to film the chase in Bullitt (1968).

Best thing about the day was Jet Pack man, though, especially when he flew under the bridge over the track. I really want one of these to get to the station!  The old style Bell rocket pack they used in Thunderball (1965) and at the opening of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics could only run for about thirty seconds but this one can go for up to eight minutes. Invented by someone from Britain it is now being funded by the US Military.

I first came across the Napier-Railton in my Brooke Bond tea cards History of the Motor Car in the late sixties.  I loved all the pipes and stiff emerging from its body. It's certainly like a Pulp vehicle; it looks like it should have Doc Savage at the wheel.  The original car is in the Brooklands Museum, which is about seven miles from where we live and my Uncle Wally had a lot to do with setting up. 

"They're going to be running it in the hill climb!" exclaimed Guy as we looked at the Goodwood programme.  A replica surely? But no, more than eighty years after it was built, it was able to hammer up the hill in fine, gleaming, mid-thirties style,  Not just a dusty museum exhibit, this.

The following weekend Guy and I went to the Brooklands Trust Classics day (we both joined as members which means we can get in for free and use the members bar, restaurant and verandah). We went to have another look at the Napier-Railton, now safely returned from Goodwood.

This is the Daily Herald trophy, awarded for the fastest lap of Brooklands (the world's first purpose built motor racing track) which is now held, in perpetuity (as the track has been chopped up to make way for shops and offices) by the Napier-Railton, driven by John Cobb at 144 mph in October 1935

This is a great shot of Cobb setting the record on 7th October 1935, all four wheels of the Napier-Railton off the ground on Brooklands famous banking.



There is still some of the banking left at Brooklands and they had some of the British classics parked up on it. The bridge in the background of the colour shot above is the same one as in the black and white picture.  I was excited to see a Singer Gazelle and a Morris Oxford; two of my family's childhood cars.  The condition of most of these cars was amazing.  I don't think ours ever looked this good, even when they were new!

There was a large auto jumble at the event, where you could pick up bits of car, if you were so minded but having no interest in bits of cars I bought a naked girly statue instead, given I didn't think they would let me take the Daily Herald Trophy.  Guy though that this was typical.

Next it was music, rather than vehicles and a trip up to the Guildhall School of Music where my niece had an opera performed.  She has written a chamber opera before but this was the first one which has been staged with sets and costumes.  Called A Risk of Lobsters the story is far too convoluted to explain but was set in outer space, under the sea and in the court of a ferret prince.  She has now been taken on by the Guildhall as a fellow for next year and has done an interview and had her music played three times on Radio Three now.

Today's wallpaper is an appropriately Napoleonic period painting: Jean Auguste Dominic Ingres; La Grande Odalisque, which dates from 1814.  It was commissioned by Joachim Murat's wife Caroline, Napoleon's younger sister.  It was not well received at the time, with its deliberately distorted anatomy, but when I first saw it in the Louvre at the age of twelve I had to buy a print of it, along with a Renoir nude and Théodore Géricault's officer of the Chasseurs of the Guard. Soldiers and naked ladies being my two favourite things, even then.

Today's music also has a Napoleonic link (or perhaps an anti-Napoleonic link) in that it is my favourite Beethoven symphony; the 3rd, With Dvorak's New World this was the first classical record I owned when my aunt gave me her copy (as it was a duplicate) when she got married in 1968. I never get tired of it (unlike the 5th and 6th) and used to play it when setting up my Airfix Napoleonic wargames back in the early seventies so still resonates when painting British infantry (not that I ever painted any of my Airfix figures, except the British Hussars). This was the 1957 stereo recording produced by Walter Legge and it is still my favourite. My CD version has the advantage of no break part way through the second movement, either, like the LP did. I will be away for a bit shortly, so my painting will stop for a few days but will hopefully resume soon.