Sunday, 23 April 2017

View From The Window

The last day of home alone, the washing's done, the ironing is done a bit of a food shop today and we are ready for Mrs A's arrival tomorrow, then it is a short week before we head off into the wilds of Scotland just in case the wall is rebuilt and I take an English passport, naturally it will be Poles building it if it does happen. We are heading for John O'Groats and a trip along the coast back to Skye for the last couple of days, I am not one for the great outdoors, I know it is there but am happy to stay here. It is not that I dislike travel but I need stuff to see, battlefields, museums, restaurants, palaces, forts etc. apart from palaces the North probably has some of the rest but surrounded by vast swathes of empty, very pretty empty but there you go. Anyway, Mrs A likes it and she deserves it for her birthday road trip, she is spoiling me with the accommodation mind you. And being honest it will be great to get away for a wee while. The sun is shining again, that's two days in a row which makes me fear for summer, houses are being bought in the village but Washington House is still empty and forlorn, I must have been wrong about potential buyers.


OK, I'll go.

The big news of course is the General Election, where do I stand now that Nigel has delivered Brexit, I don't know to be sure, I was happy enough with Theresa but her decision not to sort out our Foreign Aid madness has disappointed me, 0.7% of our cash goes abroad and here at home we are a basket case on so many issues desperately needing funding. Aid goes hand in hand with benefits, politicians are more than happy to throw other people's cash at many undeserving cases as it supposedly lets them take the moral high ground but in reality it is easier than having the backbone to sort the mess out.

I see the latest box to tick on your way to celebrity is mental health, and now it has the Royal Seal of approval thanks to Diana's kids. Can you remember when it started with having a bad mum, a horrendous woman who pushed their son but mainly daughter to become rich and famous against their will, although usually the parent in question was dead and couldn't speak for themselves. Then 'abuse' was added to the resume, not sexual abuse, that would come later, but physical abuse, again said perpetrators were dead. Then of course the sex thing, suddenly hordes of the 'famous for fifteen minuters' had had a hellish upbringing thanks to dead people. And now it is mental health that is popular, if you have a full set you are at the top of your game. I like to call this the Spartacus effect as in the movie with the famous 'I'm Spartacus' scene. I also think it drowns out people who do seriously suffer because they are not newsworthy.

No, really, he's Spartacus.

But there is hope on the horizon, that most intelligent of film stars, Gwyneth Paltrow, after passing on the benefits of hot stones, crystals etc. has found that walking barefoot on the ground cures depression, no it is not just going for a walk without shoes it is 'Earthing'. I'm heading out sans footware this afternoon after three weeks in the PO.

Earthing, grow your own dope.

The real scientific community is not kicking its heels either, a middle aged professor has released a video, as, after 40+ years he has now mastered the art of tying his shoe laces and wanted to pass it on to the rest of us who have been tripping up for decades, buying slip ons and have got it wrong. I don't know about you but I double tie my laces, I have done this since day one because one tie is not enough I find, but that wasn't good enough for the prof so he investigated and bingo, no doubt you will already be benefitting from this breakthrough as I type. Why are we doing it wrong, you have to loop the opposite way, I gave up at this point.


Continuing with the science lesson, I was told when they discovered I was diabetic that I had to stop drinking real fruit juice as it was worse than a fizzy drink, which it wasn't, but anyway I gave up the occassional glass of pink grapegruit I enjoyed. It now transpires that the sugar in fruit juice is good sugar as opposed to bad sugar, no I don't get it either, but I am happy that a team of overpaid white coats has been beavering away for years to inform me of this breakthrough.

I see that the Equality and Diversity Unit at Oxford is also beavering away justifying their existence, it transpires that if you do not make eye contact with the person you are speaking to or enquire as to where they are from you are a racist, I wonder if that should be a capital, Racist, or even RACIST! I have known a handful of people in my life, all white, who avoid eye contact when speaking, it's just a thing, like a twitch or biting your nails thought I, and surely one of the most natural things in the world when you meet someone is to ask where they are from? Why don't we just admit that everyone is Racist and leave it at that, what, only white people, err OK.

Staying with further education, I picked this beauty up, people are being asked at some student meetings not to clap but to use 'jazz hands', now I had no idea what that was until I looked it up, it is when you lift up your arms, spread your fingers and shake your hands. This act is silent and therefore will not cause anxiety and is not threatening in any way, like say, clapping. Can you imagine summoning up the one police officer in your county and informing him you had just been clapped at and you wanted the perpetrator dealt with. On a secondary note, wouldn't using 'jazz hands' be considered a racial slur?

And if you think that is infantile then you are going to love the new therapy being considered by the NHS, some nut, sorry, respected phsyciatrist or whatever is pushing the idea that if you have mental issues regressing to a state of 'babyhood' can aleviate these symptoms and bring harmony and peace, nappies will be provided.


My granddaughter in Chorleywood will grow up without ever having passed through a ritual which, up until now, almost every little girl in the country would have spent time enjoying or not enjoying as the case may be, I am talking about that rite of passage for British children male or female, the Brownies, the Rainbows, Beavers, the Cubs or whatever they are called these days. There are 50,000 children waiting for a place to go and be children and enjoy themselves with their peers. You could lay the blame at the door of immigration but far more insidious is the hidden claim that unless you are checked and approved (and hand over some cash) you might be a danger to those children. So organisations countrywide which at one time were open to all now have an entry age of 18 or volunteers are not willing to pay money or be put in a position where they can be pointed at or targetted at the drop of a hat. My own wargame club has a limit of 18 now, to play with toy soldiers! Red tape insists that if one of us brings his son along he has to clear it with our Child Protection Officer first, the age limit is easier than tying ourselves up in knots with paperwork, can you imagine the madness of a seventeen year old bringing along his Roman Army with his mum in the background as the responsible adult.

What's love got to do about it. Well if your boyfriend has just come out of jail, screws you down to a wooden board and plugs you into the mains through your private parts not a lot I would guess for one of you. She then has the gall to take him to court, what happened to 'just say NO!' or head for the nearest door.

Who loves ya baby?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Good stuff on the box

I am having a surprisingly good time with what is on offer at the moment after months of dire programming, as you know I have programmed myself over several years to have something in the background, not music, never music, while I potter about with the brushes.

I was getting desperate for a wee while there and as the trailers for the new series of 'Versailles' came up and I saw some military types and some cannon smoke I thought perhaps I was too harsh on the first five minutes I gave series one, so I went back to it. I checked the King's brother out, he was gay and very open about it, so I let that one slide but shut my eyes whenever he got too close to his mate, yes I actually do that. I got about fifteen minutes in this time before I had had enough of the rollicking and frolicking, nope, no matter how many battles turn up.


I searched around and found 'Shots Fired' about the shooting of a white boy by a black cop, the investigators are black as are many of the characters, I am glad I did not reach for the remote, there are political and social themes throughout and they are well done from both black and white perspectives and the lead woman is not simply a cipher, in fact the actress is pretty good, I am looking forward to the next episode.


I also found another new series 'The Son' about a Texas family and its climb to owning an oil and ranching empire. The story has many cliches and you can see some of the plot lines coming without a telescope but I like it, Pierce Brosnan is the lead and I like Pierce, I believe he speaks highly of me. I am put out by the inclusion, once again, of the gay character when his sexuality is totally unnecessary and adds nothing to the story line, just so you know what's coming there have been two less than subtle hints in one episode. I shall however, keep going for now, but if some kind of modern hogwash is attached to the Comanche I might reach for the off button.


And of course the superb 'Car Share' is back, I thoroughly enjoyed the first series, it is clever, pleasant, entertaining and at times laugh out loud funny, and that is a hard thing to achieve. The second series has been great, I have even watched one episode twice, the one with the large, Irish  Smurf in the front seat, inspired comedy.


The odd episode is not enough of course with the amount of painting I am doing, so I have discovered military lectures on You Tube, these generally last an hour and are perfect for me. I have listened to Andrew Roberts and Max Hastings amongst others and have found the Royal Canadian Military Institute in the last day or so who have several interesting pieces on various subjects. I particularly like Eric Morse who is very entertaining. In keeping with my interests I enjoyed his Collapse of the Roman Army of the West.

I have not been so lucky with movies except for 'Skull Island', sheer fantasy but I did enjoy it, brain out, snacks and beer in, not a care in the world. I recommend it.


Monday, 17 April 2017

Londinium

I closed the PO on Thursday and I was off, my one regular Saturday customer was informed we would be shut so no damage there, I am hoping the PO will not notice the drop in their profits amongst the Easter celebrations. I went First Class of course to avoid the hoi polloi but I really need whatever class it is that allows you to avoid all human contact. A couple sat in front of me had brought what amounted to a picnic for a two hour journey, despite being offered refreshments on the train, all wrapped in tinfoil and plastic, then for about an hour of the journey I had to listen to the muted strains of Punjabi music emanating from the earphones of a gentleman across the way. Despite not being with my wife I made it across London to Chorleywood and arrived safe and sound.

The next day I had planned to go to the National Army Museum and then either the V&A or the Cartoon Museum depending on how much time I had, I had a leisurely lie in and set off at 1100 hrs for the train. The first was for Watford as was the second and the third, by this time I had found a couple who spoke English (and this is not sarcasm) who told me all the trains went to Watford unless I wanted to wait another 45 minutes, where I had to get a bus to Wembley then on to London. Rail repairs because of the Bank Holidays. I did this and then spent a lot of time on a bus going through parts of London which I have never seen in my life, I got off at Harrow-on-the-Hill instead of Wembley because I got the message from a yelling Inspector wrong. I was told at Harrow that a train would be along in fifteen minutes, along it came and the platform which up until then had been mostly empty became a sea of people all suddenly in front of me! I and many others could not get on the train, two carriages to pick up everyone along the line and take them to central London, it was now after 1300, two hours and I was nowhere. A train going to Chorleywood turned up and I jumped on it and was there in fifteen minutes, so for just over two hours I had got fifteen minutes away from my start point.

On the Saturday I tried again, but this time I had the formidable Mrs A with me, we got on the train this time, albeit ending up closer to people than you should be if you are not married to them. I got my wish to visit the new National Army Museum, and, yes, you guessed it, I was disappointed. The new building is very bland from the outside and very clinical inside, it is a typical modern museum and seems to be all over the place. The army's part in our Empire seemed to fill three display cases, one for the Sudan, one for the Sikh Wars and for some reason, a snub at Nicola Sturgeon perhaps, one for the Jacobites, all with a mere half a dozen artifacts, the rest of the room was a 'learning space' with keyboards and screens for kids. There seemed to be no organised way to walk through the other two floors and you had 'voices' from the Napoleonic Wars and others interspersed with WWI and WWII, even the picture gallery did not flow and you had to come back on yourself if you wanted to see all the paintings. As befits modern concepts the role of women was everywhere and also an area with nothing to do with the Army but a lot to do with giving voice to people who don't believe in armies etc. A strange thing to have in an Army museum if you ask me.


I managed to see the Siborne model which was a boon for me as I have read the book on the maker and the building of the model but sadly my overall feeling was that my journey had been in vain. Don't go to the British Army's museum and expect to learn about our gallant deeds, our heroes, our battles or our proud regiments and come away with your head held high, because you will be wasting your time. Give me a dusty old non-apologetic celebratory collection of days gone past any day, and lets face it, the British Army has done this country proud many a time.





After this I ended up at Roald Dahl's Matilda with my granddaughter and the family, expecting to hate listening to a bunch of shrieking kids, but I believe I was caught humming one of the tunes on the way to the station after the show, I still deny it of course.


My last day in London involved a trip to Legoland, grumpy Papa getting dragged along again, but it did have its moments, especially when I won the Laser Raiders with a score of 29,500 to my sons 16,000 and this time there was a photo of me in the little wagon actually smiling, although it has since disappeared (it was a tenner!) Legoland is a great place for kids, I also enjoyed the sections with models of famous buildings from around the world, they were very well done. Legoland however will not forget Mrs A for a while as she and my son were stuck in a log boat for about thirty minutes until rescued as the ride broke down. Reparations had to be demanded and duly received, only then did we make our way out of the by now empty park with our colours flying proudly in the wind and queue busting passes in our pockets for next time.




Thursday, 13 April 2017

Never say Never

My Wild West mat turned up the other day and I am pleased with it, nothing startling but nicer than the one I am using. I took a couple of photos but the light was not good so I have simply plonked the advert from Deep Cut Studios. I could have gone for a smaller mat but I have a large town and I like to use the full area rather than the recommended couple of feet, plus it leaves my options open for a ranch or mine etc.


I have also ordered up more Romans, yes I know, madness. Now that the Twelfth are getting out for some battles I find I am using the armoured archers as skirmishers, which of course if you have Wargamers OCD is not an option, hence I have got some A&A mid Imperial unarmoured archers coming. To be honest at the moment I am limited to some slingers and the horse archers so they are needed. I argued with myself for a long time over buying that other auxiliary unit as well, but pulled back from the brink, for now.

Also for some reason I have got painters block, I have the new cavalry unit all cleaned and primed ready to go but have not went near them since, I am seeking medical advice. I hope to be back to normal after the Easter break.

I have been busy finishing off several map projects as well recently, some of these have been in the pipeline for a while waiting for the authors to give the green light, I have a new one on the South Africans during WWII, the second volume, next in line.



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Thunderbolts fizzle out

Once again a fight against Ryan's Seleucids, this time with an elephant, this beast is very powerful in War and Conquest, I hesitate to say too powerful as I have only come across one twice before in my many games. The first time it was no problem and the second it was used in a manner not conducive to the rules and I got stuffed, this defeat has now been expunged from living memory due to the manner it was used.

Anyway I still had a bit of a fear of Nellie so I decided to think outside the box with my choice of troops, I also had to bear in mind the staying power of those phalanxes. I therefore went with a veteran cohort supported by two raw cohorts, to offset their slightly worse morale I put a Centurion with the new troops, the Emperor would command the veterans, I decided not to take cavalry as the Seleucid cavalry is marginally better than mine unless I take the cataphracts and at 2,000 points I could not afford them, so I took an auxiliary cohort instead. My firepower was archers, horse archers and two bolt shooters, these were the lovely Aventine manuballista figures, a hand held ballista in other words, to hopefully stampede the elephant before it did any damage.

I have a terrain matrix but as Ryan turns up straight from work and time is of the essence we didn't use it, I also forgot to bring it, so the terrain was fairly neutral. I plonked down a line of legionaries, two with heavy armour, with my auxiliaries on one flank and the horse archers on the other, the enemy had a line of pikes, helped out by Nellie, cavalry on one flank and a horde of skirmishers on the other.


My plan of course was to cause some casualties on the elephant and hope it went mad and out of the game, Ryan went first and came straight at my line, my bolt shooters did indeed hit the beast but he made his morale check. I also saw an opportunity to knock out his smaller phalanxes, to this end I thought I would put Cohors II in harms way and keep the elephant busy while I destroyed his line and would then turn in on the survivors. Things looked really good and then I threw two fives for initiative, even better, but no, Ryan threw one six, it was the beginning of the end and so soon. He hit Cohors III with two pikes and Cohors II with the elephant, I could not shoot at it again as it trundled towards me. Elsewhere my horse archers failed to kill any of the cavalry opposite them but on the other flank I managed my usual trick of sending the enemy skirmishers fleeing for the rear.


I lost Cohors III and their Centurion but it managed to outdistance pursuit, Cohors II manfully stood up against the elephant but couldn't knock it back, they were then charged by the large pike block and a long fight ensued, again the Centurion fell. Eventually I got the veterans in against a small pike block but despite a high kill rating, heavy armour and the Emperor urging them on they failed to win and only managed a draw and another, long, slow fight began, something I did not need.


I eventually managed to win the initiative, my only time during the game, and as I surveyed the field it looked like I might just hold on as time ticked away, the veterans were at last winning but still not managing to make the pikes flee, the auxiliaries were ready to move to the centre, the horse archers kept the enemy cavalry busy and I had a large amount of firepower ready to unleash on the enemy when Cohors II eventually ran, which it did. My other cohort was now coming back into the fight. Just before all this and as Cohors II fled and gave me a line of sight I at last shot the elephant to death.


It was not to be, incredibly the veterans, now winning the melee, suddenly lost it and fled while my bolt shooters and archers failed miserably, I offered my sword.

I do not think the army choice was bad, in fact it was or should have been a tough nut to crack, not getting the initiative in that vital second dice off began the rot and not getting it again until the end of the game put me under intense pressure. The cohort fighting against the elephant and her mates actually stood up well for a long time but the other two were dire, especially the veterans, my strike force. Here is the wargamers lament, my die rolling was incredibly bad, and with one of my two favourite dice sets, the amount of ones I threw was unbelievable. My ability to kill anything was severely limited and my horse archers did not do one casualty all game, the bolt shooters too were hopeless after their first shot at Nellie, and don't get me started on the combat and saving rolls. Ryan I believe would confirm all this angst.

Ryan has now managed to paint up some slingers, and very nice they are too, we also decided to use our commonsense with the elephant and when its partners charged in they too became disordered due to the closeness of the beast in the same combat, the rules say otherwise. If you do not play this way then the elephant/infantry combo just steam rollers any poor sod in its path. For some unknown reason the elephant crew also get two shots with their bows, perhaps it is to reflect the carrying of more ammunition in the howdah, I cannot think of any other reason. It is a potent weapon but my boys have now 'seen the elephant' and after a severe talking to this morning will try harder next time, and just in case I shall use my other favourite dice.

Despite everything a good game.

Monday, 10 April 2017

A good mornings work.

Once I had finished my breakfast yesterday I decided to finish off a couple of projects before catching some rays with a beer and a book. My new Roman addition to the Patricians is Quinta Macedonica a border Legion which went on to serve in the Byzantine army so I suspect it was on the Danube somewhere rather than the Rhine, I love these little details, completely useless but somehow important to a wargamer. I decided to add one more Roman infantry unit to the army in case I need a good number of cheap, but capable troops while perhaps going cavalry heavy on a larger table. I also find it hard to resist the shields.


Primed and ready to go I have a cavalry unit which I will probably finish in the next couple of weeks there being absolutely no hurry for them, again it is shield patterns more than anything. That leaves a horse archer unit I would like, but again don't need, so might have to put that on the wish list, we will see.

I also completed the third of my MDF boards, I used some hedges from The Last Valley and some corrugated sheets I had lying around from 4Ground, I also scrounged up a couple of barrels and a wheel. I had wanted to do a ploughed field but that will have to wait until I get something to use for furrows, if I keep using up my stock of Last Valley hedges I shall have to pop along to a show and get some more. I also used some darker static grass this time mixed in with my usual green, that's what gives the shadow effect along the hedges, I like it. I also thought a couple of larger flower patches the piece being an unused meadow kind of thing.


By the time I finished all this the sun had gone, it was still dry but there was a cold wind, too cold to sit outside, maybe next weekend.

I am expecting a delivery today at some point, Deep Cut Studios have released a Wild West mat, had to have it. At the moment I am using an old GW vinyl green mat on to which I painted a bit of desert as the base for my town Carefree, why do we automatically think Western towns are built in deserts, anyway, I am hoping this one will be better, I am sure it will be.




Sunday, 9 April 2017

View From The WIndow

Lovely day yesterday and it looks like being another, the sun is shining, still a bit cool though, and there is a morning mist way in the distance so I can see myself sitting in the garden with a cold beer at some point today. There has been a lot of interest around Washington House this week, a prospective buyer perhaps has made a second visit en famille, and spent time in earnest discussions with the estate agent at the side of the road. A village quiz has ended and the Drama Group are getting ready for a production of 'A Good Country' in the hall at the end of the month, something to do with Australian convicts. I am getting ready for a long weekend down south over Easter. A visit to the theatre courtesy of my granddaughter, sadly she is not paying and a day at Legoland are on the cards, for me I want to pop into the V&A and a comic museum, either that or at last the Guards Museum. What about my customers you ask, yes, what about them? It was gone 10 am this Saturday before I sold a stamp, so I am off.

Big news of course is that Trump has fired missiles at Syria on the evidence of some Turkish doctors somewhere on the border between the two countries, a tad quick on the draw for me. I just don't get why Assad would use chemicals on one village knowing it was going to cheese everyone off, especially as he seems to be winning the war anyway. It also seems to have been pointless to me, the hardened bunkers seem in the main to have not suffered at all, and as they didn't hit the runways what was the point. I love the way we choose our dictators, if you are on our side, like Gaddafi or Hussain were at one point, or Pinochet or Egypt's present leader with a horrendous human rights record or you have nuclear weapons like Kung Fu Panda in North Korea you won't get hit with a big stick, but if we decide you are no use to us we move heaven and earth to get rid of you. And at the end of it what right had Trump to fire rockets into a country he is not at war with. I have said it before, I don't want to glow in the dark because of some third world hell hole.


The US airstrike may have blinded you to the other big surprising news last week, Barry Manilow and Paul Burrell are gay, surprised the hell out of me, and here I was thinking they were macho men and good role models for young, unprivileged, inner city kids. Too much? In Manilow's case, so what, it's his business. The other is a different kettle of fish, a snake oil salesman as slippery as his product, we all use the term 'makes my skin crawl' but when the butler and professional sycophant was front page news I did feel my skin crawl as I listened to him. He still makes me shudder. I nearly forgot, he commissioned his own Tartan for his 'wedding' and the explanations for the design would have you reaching for a bucket, he should be under a rock.


I wrote my letters to Wee Jimmy Krankie in Scotland, Theresa May in Westminster and my local MP David Morris and asked if they would kindly let me know if I, as a citizen of the UK and Scottish would get a vote in the second referendum. Mr. Morris sent me a lovely letter outlining the Conservative plans for Brexit and tagged a sentence on the end saying it was up to Holyrood who votes, and here was me thinking Holyrood was only a devolved governing body and should do what it is told. I also got a reply from Wee Jimmy's office, a Ewan Stuart told me all about how the SNP was carrying out the will of the Scottish People and not once mentioned whether they were happy for this Scot to get a vote, so I am awaiting a second missive from Edinburgh. Theresa is obviously busy, they call her Mayhem in Scotland, cute.



And which party which professes to be for the people and against all the bad things in the world decided to ignore the people of Scotland who are not SNP members and do not want a referendum, lent just enough votes to get it passed, the Greens.


Jobs for the boys in Brussels, always thought they had three presidents but no, they have four, and they now have two Brexit negotiators, how will that work?

Where do you stand on the Cadbury Easter Egg fracas, the removal of the word Easter from their annual egg hunt, albeit it is still in small print on the packaging. I almost gave up on Cadbury, I get a bar once in a blue moon, when it was bought out and the production was moved to a secret bunker in Eastern Europe. Although not religious, Easter has its roots in a pagan festival, I'm going to do my bit and put them on my 'not to be traded with' list, that'll sort 'em.


I like ice cream, but I like good ice cream which normally of course means expensive ice cream, but it keeps letting me down. I was tempted by Ben and Jerry's Topped Salted Caramel the other day and yes the top bit was lovely but once that has gone you have to dig through the tasteless stuff to get the odd little nugget of Salted caramel or chocolate thingy. I have noticed the same with Hagen Das, Strawberry Cheesecake for instance, there's not a lot of cheesecake in there, and why does chocolate ice cream these days not taste of chocolate. My son lived near a Baskin Robbin's in Doha a few years ago and that was heaven, yet you get the same company here and although it is nice you do not get the full range of flavours, it's like our local supermarkets, the same ice cream now for seventeen years. So that's Ben and Jerry's on the list as well.

Did you watch the annual Panorama programme on the poor people having to live off benefits last week, I only caught the highlights on the news and if they thought I was going to feel sorry for these people they were well off the mark. One woman who had had seven kids, all taken into care, not married of course, no job despite being completely able bodied, can you say that now? Anyway she was wailing that 'my money' (no dear, it's my money) had been cut and how was she supposed to live, answers on a postcard. Then there was the equally able bodied looking couple with two kids who desperately wanted to work but sadly could not for medical reasons, she explaining this while whizzing her kids around a playground he from his well worn couch with the plasma TV in the background.

Yes, it is getting out nice, nothing really to do today apart from a bit of ironing which should take about half an hour then sit in the sun with a good book until I start to melt, I don't like it too warm, a small fry up is on the cards right now though. Happy Easter, no View next week.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Good Read

I am well known for always having a book at hand, while travelling offshore in the chopper, taking the boys to their clubs, on the train or wherever. I have been fairly lax though for the last six months or so, not that I have not been reading books, but they were all associated with my new late Roman army, so more research than pleasure, albeit I enjoyed them. Getting the new iPad mini hasn't helped either as I tend to pick it up rather than a book, although I am weaning myself off this constant checking for what turns out to be nothing, no emails, no posts most of the time.

I do read the Spectator on it though, they send me a paper copy but I don't really pick that up, the Spectator is important because it has a book review in it, something which always tweaks my interest and the buying of books usually follows, the Sunday Times was bad for this until it dumbed down and I gave up on it. My first buy then has been 'Praetorian' by Guy De La Bedoyere, it keeps me in my Roman bubble and it covers the famous or infamous military unit from beginning to end, this no doubt will be the first of many.


While out shopping the other week I also noticed several books on Russia, an interest of mine, especially the period between the Revolution and the fall of Communism, I duly noted the titles and on getting home ordered up 'Praetorian' and 'Last of the Czars'. I also bought one book in the store, 'Blitzkrieg', supposedly a new take on the Battle for France, I am really enjoying it but it is far from a new take with nothing new revealed yet.

My fourth book in the ready use locker is one for which I drew the maps and was given by the author as payment for making some corrections once the project was finished, 'The Mongol Invasions'. The original stuff I was given was pretty bad and although the finished articles look good they need some tweaks, but it is too late now.

I do always feel a little guilty buying books online, but you can get new books for as much as 50% off and it is really difficult to pass that by. I have bought many books at the usual £20 - £25 mark as the contents intrigued me and found them to be rubbish. I also do not go into the local Waterstones now as much as I used to as I find that my military and historical interests must be frowned on at HQ as their selection diminishes with each visit while the section on Angels gathers more shelves.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Get off my land

As you know I was away gaming in Yorkshire not so long ago and I liked the scatter terrain used by Michael and Simon, a bit of thought had went into it and with that, along with finishing the villa, I decided to up my game.

 I 'tidied' up my terrain boxes and found two rubberised mats which I wasn't too keen on so they were first up, they had a kind of black and grey stoney ground on them and a rather insipid green grass, so I went at the stoney ground with my usual mix of Flat Earth, Golden Brown and Dark Sand and finished off with a dusting of Late Summer Grass which is my favourite and blends in well with the Deep Cut mats I use.

WIP on the left, the original on the right.
Finished, but not a great photo, the light was bad, but they do look better, believe me.

I have five MDF sheets left now that the villa is based so I decided to tart one up as a little small holding which can be designated uneven or broken ground, I have quite a few Dark Age buildings lying around from my Dux Britanniarum period so grabbed two with a bit of fencing and a tree. I stuck all the bits on the base and then gave it a coat of sharp sand stuck down with PVA. Once dry it got the usual earth coat and a sprinkling of grass, job done.

The 'design' phase.

I dug out a few civilians and some livestock to populate the piece and, like the villa, was going to glue them on the base, but just in time I thought, no, if I simply base them I can if required use them for whatever game or period they fit, and as they are based the same way as the terrain they fit in just nicely. This means I have a more pigs, cows, chickens and civvies to work on later. Also if a bunch of skirmishers or cavalry come galloping by they can just be moved to accommodate them.

Done.

I have been looking at some of Mel the Terrain Tutor's videos and might also get around to tarting up my cornfields etc. Thanks to Matt at the Wargames Table and the recent game of Chain of Command with Phil and Jenny I have also been inspired to get back to work on my WWII terrain, first up will be some fields. After that I just need to get someone to come and play over them, that's the hard part.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Banzai, err, Doner und Blitzen

I had a great evening at the club last night, which was required after two days in the PO and another two and a half weeks to go. We were doing Dystopian Wars which had been put off the week before as the second edition rulebook had not turned up at Simon's, it still hasn't turned up but we went for the game anyway as three of us hadn't a clue. I have played it a couple of times but with long intervals in between.

This time I took the Prussian Empire with Ryan while Simon took the British with Julian, Simon has a huge collection of toys for this game and they are just lovely to look at, the Steampunk quirkiness is everywhere. The rules do seem a bit complex and we missed out a lot of the more intricate ones but Simon assured us that second edition is more player friendly, there is a lot of depth in this game and it is something you need to invest time in to get the full experience.

The Prussian fleet attacks.
 I decided to simply run my squadron at the enemy and hope to overwhelm them, there was no time for fancy manoeuvring and anyway I thought it a good plan for a club night. Yes, here it comes, a big mistake, my Krupp guns must have come from Kraft as they missed everything, but the returning fire of the British was deadly. Julian missed a couple at first and I responded with 'what a shame mate' which soon turned to 'give us a break' as he threw six after six for the rest of the night.

'Bloody RAF' was heard after this failed attack.

I lost four frigates in the opening turn and it was some time before I managed to sink a couple of destroyers, Ryan was trying to be a real admiral and was chuntering all over looking for the perfect position, it paid off and he made our first kill. Although we were taking a beating and quite a few of our ships were awash we were actually winning points wise, if only we could maintain this until the clock struck ten.

Things were desperate enough to send in the airships.
 Of course the British had no intention of letting this happen and there were some last gasp attacks from their fleet as they attempted to even the score, they succeeded despite some really good saves at one point from me. Why Banzai you ask, well when we got our first kill a huge cheer went through the Prussian fleet before being reminded we were Germans, so next up was Donner und Blitzen, although we still managed a few more Banzai's before the end, just for laughs.

Just before I lost two cruisers and lost the game.

Playing a simplified version we soon got the hang of shooting etc. and the game picked up, the best thing was we had some fun and a laugh, just what it's all about.

A quite night at the club this week, a Saga game and a boardgame and that was it. It is back to WAC next week and my third outing against the Seleucids as Simon and Julian are not present, Ryan has bought an elephant for this encounter, now that will be interesting.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

HMS Tartar 4th Commision 1970 1

(I have a plan this year to go back to my youth and travel back to one of the defining times in my life, my trip to the far east in HMS Tartar during her fourth commission, I want to try and write it as it unfolded for me, or as near as I can.)

I joined HMS Tartar, a tribal class frigate on 6th January, 1970 as a Junior Radio Operator 3rd Class (JRO3), in Portsmouth harbour straight after Christmas, she was my first ship, I had just turned seventeen. It was late and dark when I arrived at the gangway carrying my kit bag and case with all I owned, I got onboard and went through the hateful routine of getting bedding, paperwork done etc., I would never like this part of the routine, and being late at night no one was particularly helpful. I was shown to the radio operators mess and the only free bunk was a top one, which was fine, me being young, skinny and athletic.


I was welcomed by the radio ops and made friends in particular with 'Plum' Humphries who was about the same age as me, but a tactical operator rather than a radio operator, Plum would become a good friend. I was also taken under the wing of John Doyle, my 'sea daddy' whose job was to show me the ropes and help with my training. I also got friendly with some of the Jack Dusty's (storemen) who were in the mess next to ours, we had eighteen guys in a very small space, with three tiered bunks and one small communal space with a table, on the other side from us was a larger mess which contained the Greenies (electricians), the Jack Dusty's being in between, there were more of them than us and we only ever got to really know the one guy, 'Kathy' Kirby who fixed our radio equipment.

Once aboard I found out that we were heading off to the Far East for about nine months or so in April, but before that we would be spending a month 'working up' to get us ready and shake off the cobwebs. We got some new radio operators at this period and finally had the crew which I would live with for almost the next two and a half years, quite happily as it turned out.

I was actually on the bridge when these photos were taken, despite my brother, who served on her later thinking he was.
The workup was hard work, we went through all sorts of exercises, including landing our marines ashore with naval back up with the army playing rioters and generally obnoxious civilians. My main job was looking after the signals coming in on the teleprinters, not being allowed near anything serious unless accompanied, but there was enough other stuff to keep me interested. For the last few days of the work up the ship was at action stations for about three days or so and that too was pretty rough, four hours on and four hours off.

After this we had a families day and as I was Scottish and my family was obviously not local I was left in the radio room with old chief 'Pusser' Hill while the rest swanned about up top. I was sat on a morse circuit and was terrified, there was some dits and dahs and the chief asked me "was that for us?", no said I with fingers crossed, he lifted up a rather large book and hit me over the head with it, shoved me out of the way and answered the message. A short time later the chief departed the ship and Bart Bartlett a leading radio operator became our boss.

Between the workup and leaving for the FES (Far East Station) we dropped in to Bordeaux, my first time out of the country, if you don't count our first run ashore in Newcastle. I remember visiting a large fair of some kind and getting drunk on Spaten beer in a German exhibit, drinking out of beer mugs bigger than my grandchildren and running along tables, perhaps the last bit was wishful drinking.

Anyway April was approaching and we would be off, I was looking forward to the big adventure, we had been moored alongside the Leander class frigate HMS Hermione in Bordeaux and I had taken the RO2 exam and passed, I was now looked on as a competent radio operator, I was still rubbish at morse though and still sat beside a teleprinter. When on watch I was under the watchful eyes of 'Lofty' Gedling, a tall, gangly character full of beans whom life didn't seem to bother, Lofty always had a cigarette in his mouth or a drink in his hand if it was possible, preferably alcoholic or at times some dubious substitute.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Sharp Practice 2

As you know this is not my cup of tea, although I would probably play it to fight over some nice terrain with beautiful figures, also, if you want someone to play your game you have to play theirs, it's a given, and good manners.


The missus was leaving yesterday for a three week stint babysitting down south and the weather was beautiful, I decided therefore to go for a drive and pop in on the lads at the Keg and Kitchen in Grange-Over-Sands. I got the lid down on the Batmobile and cruised over at a leisurely pace, Grange is a one of those towns around here that just attracts people, like Kirkby Lonsdale, once in the car park I realised I didn't have enough loose change. It must take cards surely, yes it did, but it took me a good five minutes to work out how, it had been the same at the Spar petrol station earlier, I stood around waiting for the attendant to hit the button and found after investigation I had to press buttons on the pump first, easier life no doubt, but not the first time you come across it. I should have paid by card at the pump as the assistant was 'well slow'.




Once I got to Grange I walked in to an empty pub, I eventually found a kind lady and asked her where the toy soldiers was happening and was directed, rather furtively, to the corner, down the stairs and to the left. By the sounds coming from the room I expected something along the lines of Salute, but once in the room I found about a dozen people. It was a bit dark but there were four tables and three games going on around which everyone seemed to be having a blast. There was a 15mm game, a Napoleonic Peninsular bash and Richard Clarke himself, running what looked like AWI or around that era, the two latter tables looked very nice indeed while the 15mm was fairly normal for a club game. There was one more nice table set up for an ACW game later in the day but empty when I appeared.


I had a nice chat with the club guys running the event and also managed to throw some decent dice for Julian at one point. I also met Adam, who runs a GW store, in Kendal, I think and I enjoyed chatting to him for a wee while, he also managed to inform me where to get hold of the old GW paint and one of my favourites "Snakebite Leather" so a result there. There was also talk of a venue in Kendal at some point in the future for wargamers, I mentioned I would like to support that if and when it happens as I am only thirty minutes away.


I was invited to take part in the next game with the rules author but I was only out for a flying visit, so I said my goodbye's and wished the guys luck for the rest of the day. They had done a great job and well done for Two Fat Lardies for supporting them.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

View From The Window

It's cold, but the sun is shining through the window and I can see all the way to the unlovely windmills which are standing doing nothing as not a breath of air moves the 'wind tree' in the garden of Eyebrow cottage. The scaffolding has gone from Washington House and the house next door has new occupants, but I have no idea what or who they are, nothing else round about has moved. The village is waking up for the year, we had a quiz night in the hall last night and the drama group are ready with their first production of the year and some of the absentee landlords are here to enjoy Spring for a few days or weeks before heading back south to the rat race. There are a lot of rental properties in the village so if you are local and want to own your own house you can have a problem.

Brexit, I voted for it but am reaching for the remote now, I am Brexitted out, what happens now is out of my control so as Confucius recommended I am trying to put it out of my mind. There are moments of sheer joy still to be had of course, the look on Donald Tusk's face, the Spanish trying to grab Gibraltar, they can have it for me by the way, not a friendly lot in my experience, Hungary doing its own thing with 'refugees'. And the BBC of course, this week they filmed a fool returning his British passport along with a letter full of rubbish as if anyone was remotely interested, seemingly he managed to get an Irish passport, so he can still travel so where is the sacrifice, also when the barriers go up surely being British he will need to get another British passport and pay the £77 again? The big one for me when it all kicks off will be fishing rights, I am interested in that one, when I was on Fishery Protection I remember seeing a map of the UK on the chart room table with coloured zones around the coast, all marked thus; Spain, Holland, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark etc. that will need reprinting hopefully.

That'll show em.

My next door neighbour was cleaning his garden last week on a Thursday morning, I shouted over "I thought you were in the Army?" He is by the way, when I was in the Navy we got six weeks holiday a year if you were free, no Thursday mornings, his answer was that he booked a day off to do the garden! Yes, you can bank your holidays and take them just like civvy street, presumably as long as we are not democratising anyone at the time or we are expecting a Russian landing on Lindisfarne. But as the conversation went along I also found out that you can join up now and tick a box that you do not want to be sent overseas, it just fell short of 'do not want to be involved in a war' another, not as surprising, was that the physical benchmark for entry has been lowered as too many women were not managing it. God forbid we ever do have to fight a real war against a first class opponent.

Is this too much?

Mind you we might not have to with the like of this quote from the House in the wake of the attack on Westminster Bridge "Will the Prime Minister agree with me that what happened was not Islamic....terrorism". Might be a good time to look out those 1938 Munich white flags, give them a dust down and don't get them mixed up with the 1939 ones.

The upgrading of security in the country has had one benefit already after a fan, sorry, possible terrorist, wandered back stage during filming for "Ant and Dec's Big Saturday whatever" the vulnerable pair were whisked away to safety before you could say "Allah Akbar". One up for the West, mind you in my experience Geordie's can normally look after themselves and usually provide the security not need to be protected by it.

Don't forget the other one.

I was reminded one evening last week that my world had gone and I was living on a different planet to the one I grew up in. I sat in front of the box having a quick bite before heading off to the wargame club and the quiz compare turned to the panel and asked Ashley what she thought, Ashley was a bloke, big, deep voice, Adam's apple, the flower print top and wig fooling no one, then, turning to the contestant in the hot seat was told that he would not take the lower offer as he had been instructed by his husband not to. I switched over to Pointless just in time to hear a bloke who looked like a full time bouncer in a rough part of town voice that he knew the answer because the Lion King was his favourite all time move. The defence rests M'lud.

If any of this confuses you, then think of the uproar now about the naming of Hurricanes, the usual agitators want to know why they should be given women's names as it is insulting to women, well if you have ever got on the wrong side of a woman you will know what it feels like to be hit by a hurricane maybe. Just kidding, they can call it after any one of the 97 different genders for me, its just not going out weather.

And if I feel the need to atone for my thoughts I can always avail myself of the 'Masculinity Confession Booth' at Canada's University of Regina where males are invited to fess up their sins and change their ways for being, err, male. Don't laugh I will put money on this coming to a campus near you soon.

The actual booth.

Mexico City went one better than the Confessional Booth with the Penis Chair on their trains, this is supposed to make men uncomfortable and think about violence towards women, no I don't get it either, surely locking them up would work better, I would think there is not a lot of things more uncomfortable than being in a Mexican prison, hang on to that soap Pedro.

And it's reserved for men only!
Great news for all you Dr. Who fans who have been waiting just ages for the Beeb to come bang up to date and 'finally' give the Doc an openly gay character as a side kick, but don't pop your champagne or Fanta yet, hedging their bets the companion is a girl called Bill, aaagh, when will they get it right!