Wednesday, 11 November 2015


This post should have gone up earlier today, but something seems to have gone awry.

I picked up the Great War boardgame the other week, and have just got the BEF ready in time for 11th November. The Germans are still being painted. A few pictures are below. If you look closely, you can see I have mislaid one of the members of the HMG teams. Not too bothered, as I plan to pick up some more of these chaps. Lovely to paint, these little fellows. Setting gaming aside, this is a day to remember the loss of those who died. Wilfred Owen reminds us of the tragedy that was that Great War.

By Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

From top to bottom, from bed to hilltop

I have not been posting often for a few reasons. My depression resurfaced for a while. Work became busier, and my ability to deal with that properly was impacted by the depression. I have also been working on a colossal project. When I work on large projects I have a great tendency to get them half done, then abandon them. Things are always more interesting in my head than they turn out to be in reality. I have also experienced that loss of interest in wargaming I had hitherto only read of, and regarded as inexplicable. So what you are about to see has dragged on since at least midway through May.

The one thing I do not blame is the weather. It has only recently taken a turn for the worse. The kitchen has an aga. Agas put out heat all the time. Heat rises. My bedroom is situated above the kitchen. Since many readers are American, I should explain that not only are traditional British houses not designed to be cool, nor do they have air conditioning. Even when I was thin, I burned hot, so to speak, and now I am fat, and my workspace is warmer still, lethargy is almost inevitable.

To business. I had slept for decades on the same mattress, a simple foam affair. For many months sleep was possible only in bursts of a few hours at a time, and waking up meant attempting to dislodge my shoulder from its odd desire to implant itself in my neck. I saved money. I bought a new mattress. The shoulder is less naughty now, though I suspect the only true solution is to lose a few stone (fourteen pounds to the stone, Americans. 454g to the pound, Metric-users). Some would suggest lying on my back, not my side, but I had to do that in 2011 after my appendix was removed, and I assure such attentive people that it is impractical advice. This left me with a piece of foam sufficient to cover a Kingsize bed.

On  its own, the foam is far too soft for any purposes. So I affixed it to a 4' by 2' by 18mm piece of chipboard, adding multiple layers, each about 5" thick, until I had a towering monstrosity, which I am only able to move with difficulty. It is not the weight, but the bulk and my desire not to bash it as I move it, that makes me concerned for its mobility. I tracked a marker across the beast to remind myself where to cut, then with Stanley knife and carving knife set to work. I applied a layer of papier-mâché to the foam, and allowed it to dry. I then hacked out a few more areas to make the surfaces less regular. I did this after applying the papery cover as it was - perversely - easier to cut through that and the foam rather than just the foam. I replaced the missing papery bits, then applied sand. There followed a layer of filler.

Then came a brown undercoat. I went over some missing areas a few days later, and I have just now applied two successively lighter drybrushes of creamy-brown and cream to the edifice. A lot of little things are still to come, but perhaps they may come more quickly if I write and post this now.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Two centuries after the battle

It has unavoidably been a while since my last post. More on that at some future date. For now in the darkening evening, I just wanted to share a few images of Waterloo. Photographer Sam Faulkner has been photographing re-enactors with the aim of giving some idea of what the soldiery of the nations would have looked like after the battle. Here is the link. As well as that, a more traditional image of part of the battle that day, Scotland Forever! In Memoriam.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Pseudo-nostalgiafest: Sliders

Last year I fancied a bit of pseudo-nostalgia, and started buying up DVDs of Sliders. If you never saw that show, the premise is that a brainy chap (with remarkably large biceps for someone whose main activity is supposed to be lifting a calculator) invents a device which allows him to travel between worlds. He accidentally gets sucked into a parallel world along with his professor, his co-worker, who has a crush on him, and a down-on-his-luck singer. They keep trying to get home, and fail because that way the show keeps going. Each world they get to is different in some (usually really implausible) way. It's a scream.

The backstory to this particular episode is that the team slid onto a world about to be wiped out - by wandering quasars transiting the solar system, if memory serves - and while there the Professor was murdered by a baddie, Colonel Roger Daltrey from The Who, or perhaps the Professor had some fatal illness and was doomed to die anyway.Anyway, said miscreant fled, having sucked out bits of many other people's brains to sustain himself - yes! - and the team recruited local military officer Kari Wuhrer to help them track him down and stop him. He keeps one step ahead of them, and they get caught up in other adventures. Watching these episodes together produces a lot of comedy, as the writing teams on different episodes either didn't communicate or nobody cared. That was one of the last episodes I watched when I was younger, presumably because I went off to uni shortly afterward, and had no TV. Today's students are doubtless aghast or amused at such a notion.

In the previous episode the evil colonel had persuaded some locals to protect him, and they had captured Kari Wuhrer. First the poor dear was tied up in her underwear, and then she was clothed in some sort of One Million Years BC bikini. My brother and I, in between laughing and feeling sorry for the actress (we are complicated people, clearly), theorised that this might have been an attempt to revive flagging ratings. In this episode she ambled about in denim shorts and an abbreviated t-shirt which exposed her midriff. On the other hand, she did get to beat up the stereotypical foul-mouthed chap who gave her lip.

In the previous episode Quinn Mallory, the aforementioned inventor of the technology, had emphasised the importance of the team sticking together unless it was absolutely necessary that they split up, as they need the magic (ahem, scientific) world-hopping device he carries to move between worlds. In this episode the team have split up so that he and the singer can have a holiday in this world's super-Mexico. Essential stuff, you'll surely agree.

Their plane having been overbooked, they are now unable to get back to the girls in time, and are attempting to persuade a lady with a private flight to let them aboard when suddenly the local police arrive, guns blazing. They get onto the plane, and it turns out that the pretty lady is a scientist, bringing back rare snakes for scientific research to prevent Alzheimer's or something. Snakes On A Plane! Unluckily, a stray police bullet blew off the lock of one of the boxes, and the snake escapes, slaying the pilot, causing the light aircraft to crash-land. They all survive unharmed, although the male snake is now loose somewhere. Quinn and Rembrandt/Remi (the singer) agree to carry the box containing the other snake for the scientist. Small pretty women can't carry large boxes. To be honest, that's a big snake, so the two men should be a bit whiny, but if that were my first complaint, it would be a bit late.

The girls rent an aeroplane, knee its misogynistic mechanic-cum-owner in the lower half of his body when he suggests they "pay" him for fuel, and fly south toward our pair of men. They land at a tiny airfield, locate a handsome fellow called Carlos, who later turns out to be a psychotic criminal waiting for the lady scientist (who is no scientist!) to land. He sends them ahead to the truck, kills and partially dismembers her would-be accomplice, and then leaps into the truck to lead them on.

The two men and the not-scientist accidentally wander onto a criminal druglord's territory. In this world tobacco is illegal, and TEA agents (if you don't laugh at this, you are not British. Frankly, how Americans could keep a straight face is beyond me) were killed storming such a compound just the other week. The male snake handily slays their pursuers, and Remi begins to divine its implausible status. This is a psychic snake, and subsequently we learn it can command or control other snakes. The trio hole up in a snake-infested mansion, where they keep being surprised by snakes. It's a bit like going to pet your dog, and then screaming that a canine is running toward you.

The psychotic Carlos has by now been so odd that the ladies have knocked him out, not left him with vengeful townsfolk, not tied him up, taken him with them, and left him unguarded in the back of the truck. Whichever world Kari Wuhrer is from, their officer training system needs improving. He breaks loose and pulls a gun on them. The villainess lays the blame on the team in a sensible and craven attempt to save her life from the nutter. Fortunately, at this point the psychic male snake causes the other snakes to knock down a door. The snakes just lie there, demonstrating their utter failure to commit to the Craft. The villain is squashed by the male snake, the villainess flees, but the snakes crash her truck, and the team leap to the next world. It's initially clear that Quinn is helping the lady For Science! but then Remi complains, and apparently we're supposed to understand Quinn wants to have sex with the villainess. Conversely, Officer Incompetent wants Carlos for sex, but then realises he's a bad egg, and hits him on the back of the noggin. Disjointed is probably the best summary of this bizarrely bad (and therefore amusingly good!) episode.
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