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.
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
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
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.