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.