Friday 28 October 2011

Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!

"Wossat mean, Pete?" Weeeeeell, it's Latin, innit? "Yeah, but wossit mean?" Well, loosely translated, it means I haven't blogged so much this month as I meant to. A few things have got in the way. I've still done stuff. I did make a pretty big mistake - doing a load of prep work. "Yeah, it's all very well getting your company of WWI Germans, Pete, and gluing 'em to bases, and painting their trews blue, jackets Feldgrau and so on, if you don't finish any of the beggars. 'Cause we and you both know you dislike photographing unfinished models." Yeah, you're right. I still haven't bought any PVA glue, so can't finish basing them either. Or that trench. "You muppet!" Yeah.

However, I have also been distracted as I'll be celebrating another milestone. I had rather fallen out of the habit of celebrating birthdays. I don't recall what I did in 2003, but I expect it was painful (last birthday with the ex). I remember 2005 vaguely, because I was living in London, and no friends were free - or didn't I bother inviting them? - and I spent the day in, waiting for a plumber, who never showed. Genius. So it's a bit like Scrooge in Muppet Christmas Carol. The ghost of Christmas Present booms: "Haven't you ever noticed how everything seems wonderful at Christmas?" Michael Caine: "Er, not really, Spirit, no." I've also been spending years depressed, and good cheer doesn't penetrate that well. Come to think of it, I remember my birthday of 1999, which saw my then-girlfriend break up with me and start dating the guy in the room next to mine at uni. I'm sure I have plenty of reasons to like birthdays, but I have always remembered the reasons to dislike 'em! :-D

Last year, though, was nice. My friend, Martyn, and I are within a few days of one another, so I visited him in Wales, as did several of our mutual friends, and we had a grand time. This year, of course, everyone's poor, so it's a bit harder to organise. Nonetheless, seven specially selected contestants weill be competing for the Grand Prize of . . . well, seven friends are coming up, and I'll compel 'em to do stuff I like, 'cause one gets to be selfish on one's birthday. ;-) I was at a friend's party the other month, and she had us playing Twister. I almost dislocated everything, I think! Anyway, Cranium and Trivial Pursuit will make an appearance. I'm going to suggest Scrabble, but I won't push my luck if people scream and fling themselves out the window upon that suggestion.

The best thing about birthdays, as far as I am concerned, is seeing friends. Presents, cards, decorations: all are secondary or even irrelevant. Indeed, I tend to forget that they aren't irrelevant to my friends, too - apologies, everyone! I just like seeing people. Heck, petrol costing what it does, I'm all too aware that even the price of a journey is about the cost of a very nice present these days!

Anyway, alcohol has been purchased - and even more of it's coming (my friends are too kind!), the room will be purified with fire tomorrow. Well, Dad'll tidy his papers away. Then I'm going to finish putting up decorations. I bought a few today and will get some more tomorrow. We used to have loads of them, my birthday being so close to Halloween. But when I was still a wee lad one of our priests had a serious dislike of Halloween, and everything was got rid of. I think it was around the period that Trick or Treating reached these shores. We're right on the edge of town, so I think there may have been one accompanied small child fishing for sweets at our door in my lifetime, but that's it. Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to get some more decorations, buy some ingredients, and do a little preparatory cookery. It would not be Halloween without pumpkins. Not that it is Halloween, mind, since that's on Monday. Moving on! With fewer distractions and a lot of the basic work done on a whole company of German infantry, the blog should be a lot more active next month. Auf Wiedersehen!

Saturday 22 October 2011

Secret Project: Trench Warfare

Yes, I was working on a trench the other day. I am actually on the verge of redecorating, er, repainting and remodelling three 4' by 2' trench boards, which can be linked together to create a 12' by 2' strip of terrifying defences. The segment I am currently working on is the centrepiece, marked with two Forgeworld turret emplacements and a sizeable bunker for whoever commands this network. I slapped a load of paint on this the other day, but the gaps are abundantly in evidence. I need, as you will see, to repaint the other two boards, so it's no huge problem. The duckboards and wooden supports of the sides of the trench are either matchsticks or balsa wood. The framework of the board is polystyrene ceiling tile, covered with tissue paper impregnated with PVA heavily diluted with water.

Household filler, PVA glue, water and sand were mixed in various proportions and applied to various bits of the board. I've run out of PVA, so this third board is a bit different from the other two. I'm not sure I'll be happy with this in the long run, but for now, it'll do. Although these boards were designed primarily with 40K in mind, they will also offer some utility in Great War engagements. I'll be stretching barbed wire across the face of this central board, and have another 39" or so of the stuff available to cover the remaining 8' of board. Not quite enough, eh! Anyway, enjoy these pics. I may post again later today.

Friday 21 October 2011

A fairly nice meal for the eyes

Where have I been all week? Well, it's been one of those times when a number of small things separately hinder the completion of a greater plan. Wargamers, think of Francs-tireurs. Anyway, I mean to make up for it now, so here's the blog entry I was writing about a week ago.

I am not as a rule much of a Telly Addict these days. I'll pop on a film or some other recording while painting or modelling, but I won't usually watch a TV show. However, with autumn has come a flood of watchable stuff. A mildly diverting but somewhat scanty investigation of Pavelopetri, sunk off the southern coast of Greece. The problem with such ancient archaeology is that all is conjecture and (informed) hypothesis. It was probably a port. It lay on the route between Minoan and Mycenean trading centres, and the remains of lots of paraphernalia from looms lie about, so it probably produced a trade in cloth. From my point of view, I learned more about modern submarine archaeological techniques than I did about the ruined city. That said, I had not even heard of Pavlopetri until seeing the show in the listings a few days before, so I am greatly increased in knowledge compared to my past self!

Also in Greece just now is Joanna Lumley. I say now, but on visiting Epidaurus' theatre rain was much in evidence, and elsewhere the skies were overcast. It seems likely she filmed the series back before Easter or thereabouts. Her first port of call was the Acropolis, and I envied her the privilege afforded to television presenters actually to mount and walk around the Parthenon. For those who haven't visited it lately, know that we plebs, er, hoi polloi, that is, only get to walk around the perimeter of the Temple of Athena. The poor thing has a bit of a problem with heights, but was fairly stoic in overcoming it, even making light of her reasons for so doing: "Because I love you, the public!" Well, I hope she was making light. She seemed elsewhere easily transported to rapture. The Daily Telegraph's TV reviewer had warned me in advance of her "super hyperbole", but I did blink in mild admonition at a few things.

I sometimes suspect there's a bit missing in my soul where others see romance and beauty. I still see them, mind you. I mean that when I visited Rome some years ago and looked around the city's churches I was more struck by the gaudy ugliness of ubiquitous gold than by the beauty most people must see it having. I could go on, but my point is that these things didn't move me to transports of rapture, and so it came as no surprise when Lumley visited the Gates of the Underworld (at the foot of the Peloponnese a small cave in the coast) and dropped in some coins and a pearl for the dead, I thought to myself that for the price of a pearl one could do rather more good for the living. I am an old curmudgeon: I admit it.

On the lighter side of television's myriad joys, Harry Hill has returned to ITV, thus providing me with a reason to watch the channel again. It isn't showing Sharpe, Hornblower is, ah, dead in the water with Ioan Gruffudd off in Hollywood (he had an amusing cameo in Horrible Bosses lately), Miss Marple (do they call it Marple in a horribly desperate effort to be edgy or to save the planet by increments?) is absent from the screen, and I was never tempted to watch Downton Abbey before they brought in the Great War, and have resisted the temptation since. So TV Burp it is. It remains as enjoyable and engaging as ever, although I hear Hill isn't keen to continue it for too many more series, which is a bit of a shame. Still, when he stops I shall return to my primordial ignorance of Eastenders characters.

When I was a lad I used to convince myself that I didn't watch soap operas. Pure snobbery. Of course, looking back, it's evident I was doing it all the time! Dawson's Creek was a weekly fixture, and anyone who claims that Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't a comic soap with horror elements is in denial. There's a finite number of times the Scoobies can get annoyed with one another (because of their poor communication), after which one starts to suspect one's viewing is not so highbrow as one had though, Jeeves! Anyway, the habit stuck, so I have only the sketchiest ideas about soap operas. Meera Syal and Shane Ritchie, the pretty blonde lady from Game On! and then Craig Charles over on the other side. It's telling that they all found fame outside of these shows. oh, and Martine McCutcheon, the singer, used to be in it, I'm pretty sure.

However, it is not, however, modern TV that has been drawing my attention to itself this week, however.  As that red-headed lady who used to do Points of View and know asks people questions on the Weakest Link - Anne Robinson! - would say. Lord, she puts that word everywhere. However! My time's been spent on trying to categorise and file some of our old videos. We've a treasure trove of unseen goodies, together with a few duds, arrayed in no order. I've gone through almost eighty so far, which is about half, turning up the wheat (Whose Line Is It Anyway?), the chaff (Pilgrim's Rest - don't bother to look it up)
 and the maybes (do you want to watch a 1996 University Challenge match between Manchester and somewhere or other?). I've inherited Dad's hoarding instincts, rather than Mum's tidy ones, so I've only thrown out a few videos so far: the static-riddled, white line-addled ones, shaking all over the screen like Elvis with dementia trying to stage a come-back concert (no, I'm not suggesting he's alive).

There has even been the odd poignant moment. Dad was apparently asked to record my younger brother's First Holy Communion, so there's shaky handheld camera footage of that. Very endearing! My brother was not at all moved by this information, and received the news with a polite disinterest. Comically, it is recorded onto the end of a tape which previously features the 1990 World Cup Final, giving some idea of Dad's interests. Not mine: again, football hasn't been my idea of anything to watch for fun since as long ago as I can recall. My earliest memory of football as a child is of lunging to save a ball, and it breaking my left little finger as I failed. This might have put me against the game, but I think I played it for years after at primary school. I suspect that my secondary school's policy of rugby, cricket and hockey teams (and softball/rounders for fun) probably killed any interest stone dead. Although most of my fellows have long-standing interests. Anyway, I shall close now before this entry becomes as long as The Odyssey and indecipherable as Linear A. Au revoir, mes amis!

Thursday 13 October 2011

British citizenship tests

No, not a political post, but a comic one. The government's on the cusp of releasing - or has already released - a new test for immigrants to take. Needless to say, I took it and failed! I am not sure quite why knowing when British women gained the right to divorce their husbands is an essential requirement in this country, but that's enough sour grapes from me, eh? ;-) No, the real reason I've called you all here to the Accusing Parlour (ooh, I might consider renaming this place, if I wasn't sure that some Futurama buff must have used that as a blog-name already), is for you to take the test compiled by more amusing chaps. Needless to say, I failed the gag test, too. Oy. My knowledge of pop culture is as bad as my ability to recall the date of the first census in the UK. That last being all the more embarrassing as Mum's always researching genealogical things. I should really have absorbed it by osmosis already.

I have been keeping odd hours lately to ensure I can access Dad's PC. Hotmail and other things don't work on this wee doohickey, as I've previously lamented. So last night I dozed off for a bit, which prevented me from finishing Over the Top. Then two friends came round, and we watched Casino, which two of us quite liked. B wasn't so keen, feeling the violence excessive. I have to admit that this is not the first violent Joe Pesci Mob Movie I've seen, so I might be a little accustomed to the idea. We all agreed that these films tend toward the lengthy. Then I introduced them to a mint julep recipe I hoped to make in a few weeks' time, and it received their seal of approval. So it's definitely going to make an appearance. The internet has advised me to use spearmint, but since I can't see any of that in local supermarkets, regular mint it will have to be. It seems fine thus.

After that, I was pretty exhausted, and just dropped into bed. I don't know why, but it takes me forever to get to sleep these days, so I tossed and turned for half an hour or so. Anyway, I woke up this morning and saw an email answering some questions I'd asked, and I have since been in such a cheerful mood that I have been unable to concentrate properly on the rules! I'm not counting chickens prior to hatching, but I am remarking on the quality of the eggs! I'm going to go have a poke at painting the secret project in a minute, as I can probably make myself do something physical, even if I can't concentrate with my thinky-bits. Pictures of it later, perhaps.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

The Secret Project

Today I have been working on something I shall not show you yet. I shall scatter very vague clues to its nature throughout this entry. Tomorrow I mean to paint it. I think you'll like it, as the actress said to the bishop, or vice-versa? Ahem. In other news, I have completed the application of transfers to the company of Basilisks. The coat of varnish which locks the transfers to the models is drying even now. They look pretty good so far, and I thus have high hopes of their eventual appearance.

I was just a short time ago in my attic, which might help some of you discern the nature of my secret project. While there I found a box I'd missed before, which has another ten Leman Russ tanks in it. Every time I think I've disposed of some of them I turn up another load in some dusty, cobwebbed corner! So after months of selling these things, I think I now have a hundred left, which is more than I expected. The thought occurs to me that Christmas is approaching, so it might be an idea to hold off on selling any more until November, and thus take advantage of the Christmas Rush.

There's something of a segue here, as I have just spoken of GW models, and now I mean to speak of a GW ruleset. My friend alerted me last week to the sale at Warhammer Historicals, which is or was knocking fifty percent off the price of things. My penury had dissuaded me thus far from investing in Over the Top, the mid-war sequel to the company's Great War ruleset. However, this huge discount acted as a double incentive. First, the cheapness of my desire made it more attainable. Second, a fifty percent off sale suggests the possibility that the subsidiary will be axed ere long. I don't want to find myself in the position of being unable to purchase at any price that which I might have purchased at half price.

I have flicked through the rules, and am pleased at their appearance and at the appearance of the lists. Having only briefly inspected them, I offer no opinion of their historicity or playability. Having read a few pages from the beginning of the book, the fact that they were not written by a native Anglophone is apparent. You probably assume I mean this in an uncomplimentary fashion, but I mean quite the reverse! The English can't fasten together sentences with conjunctions, and our apostrophes skewer innocent words. We are never taught these rules, and so we cannot employ them. Foreigners learning English, on the other hand, are blessed to be taught it. Buchel's spelling and grammar are - so far - exemplary: a delight to the eye and an ornament to the page! There are certain peculiarities that remind one that he is not a native speaker: "the no-man's land" appears rather than "no-man's land". I'll take a hundred such instances of grammatically correct, perfectly spelled oddities rather than a single Forgeworld volume's endless instances of mangled verbiage!

I shall devote myself to this for the rest of the afternoon and the early part of the evening. I have some friends joining me at 7 pm to watch Casino,
which I have unaccountably failed to watch thus far. Well, I say unaccountably, but in truth I have dodged it for a few weeks now, knowing we would soon be watching it. I just have to explain away the preceding years of neglect now! Saturday will see me graving the portals of wherever it is in Stoke that is hosting a Real Ale Festival, and on Sunday I have arranged to have lunch with the estimable Andy Kind, an old schoolfriend of mine and all-round awesome guy, and his lovely wife. In perhaps even better news, the world of work has knocked on my door of late, though I shall say no more for the present: don't count your chickens before they are hatched, and all that! Until next time, chaps and chappesses!

Tuesday 11 October 2011

I am consumed with the feeling of "D'oh!"

I rang a friend earlier tonight, and the result was that which you, dear reader, might yet guess at from the title. Yes, I tried to wish him a Happy Birthday. I had carefully noted down the date of his arrival on Terra with pen and paper. Er, I mean that I wrote with a pen on some paper that his birthday was on such and such a date. Er, no. It is not this month. I rang to say I would ring with good wishes tomorrow. I discovered that the morning's sun will not bring his
mind, wholly or in part. His birthday is not on the twelfth, nor in October. Yeah: arse.

The Basilisks have had their transfers. I have acquired my food for tomorrow (it is in the main alcoholic, I must confess - but I feel I should point out that I mean to test it on two friends who will be at my birthday party and who are going to be along tomorrow to see a film). Many things are in their right places. I have learned today that I might be elsewhere in late January, and wealthier, too. I might also be not so wealthy (that is correct English, I hope), and closer to home. But the important thing is joyfulness, and I shall provide this, dear reader. For now I submit that you should rest, while I work hard at this whole "being awake" doodah!

Monday 10 October 2011

The Basilisk Company Returns!

Yeesh, running out of paint, needing varnish, having to do ten vehicles: I have a lot of excuses for the tardy progress of this project, but it's back on schedule now. Today will be dedicated to the application of transfers to these lads, and then securing the same with varnish. Tomorrow I should get on to painting and weathering, some of 'em, anyway. We are talking ten vehicles here, after all! On a cheery note, I was doing some tidying and turned up that missing Arachnid jaw, so I've now got the full set of a score of the creepy-crawlies. Good news there!

Right, what else have I been up to? Well, I'm working on making some mint juleps. The name appealed to me. I have no other reason. I assure you, dear reader, I'm off to no derbies in the American South. Literature-wise, I have gone mad. I had already begun Life of Pi, and then I started The Name of the Rose and Starfleet: Year One, as well as advancing to the second volume of Gibbon's Decline and Fall. It's not so much the Romans who are bound for a fall as the fool with so many books on the go! I managed to restrain myself from beginning Brighton Rock, though, so, erm, I'm not so foolish as I would be had I begun it. Hm. I'm also feeling a bit less histrionic than I was yesterday about postal services - more grouchy than screechy today! Anyway, I'm going to bury my nose in Umberto Eco again now. No, not like that. You have a filthy mind. Au revoir, mes amis!

Sunday 9 October 2011

Billions of bilious, blue, blistering barnacles!

As Captain Haddock would say. Something like that, anyway. He'd say that when sorely tested - perhaps by murderous extraterrestrial mushrooms or Professor Calculus doing something particularly deaf. Which Muse inspires me to such expostulations? The Muse of inept Postal Services, of course. If all is smooth as a dream, I am happy. I do not notice the good work of postal employees. But when something goes awry, I feel the pain, not those fellows. You recall the Saga of the Lost Bombard? It went to Germany and never reached its buyer. Therefore, what did I do? I sent a replacement. That never reached the chap, either, and so it bounced back here. Now the Canadian postal service is at it. They haven't delivered summat, and it's sitting in storage - perhaps until they try a second time.

Last time the clowns at Deutsche Post gave the package a new tracking number, which they did not give me, the sender, nor did they give it to the recipient. He was sat at home all day on the day they claimed to have tried to deliver it. He even met the postman, and got some other letters off him! But no damned parcel. As a result of that fiasco, when people buy stuff off me on Ebay, their Paypal payments take 21 days to come through. I don't have any money! So not getting even enough money to send a package is a pretty dreadful (you have no idea how bowdlerised that word was) deal. One digs oneself deeper into debt for a payment which - in this case - is unlikely to appear, if the Canadian postal service proves to be as inept as its Teutonic counterpart.

I need this damned money. I need it. But what can I do when these blasted postal services, on whom I must rely, can't be bothered to do their jobs? Bugger all. That's what: nothing! If you, o reader, are a postal employee who does a good job, and doesn't try to give your impoverished customer aneurysms, then I thank you. But if you're one of these . . . time to replace words again, one of these charming chaps who can't be bothered to do his job, and whose laziness and incompetence screws this wee unemployed twerp over, then may angry gnomes with sticks beat your toes throughout your life!

On the positive side, at least the staggering and grotesque incompetence of some halfwits at Deutsche Post has led to my use of tracking on every damned parcel, so it's swiftly demonstrable that I have posted it. Maybe my prospective recipients and I could pelt these jerks with less than fresh fruit until they deliver the blasted packages. I threw some old tomatoes out earlier, and now wish I had not.

The War Service of Sherlock Holmes

I couldn't quite work out how to achieve what I wanted with the Arachnid, so I've put him to one side, and have been doing a spot of work on - can you guess? - a Sherlock Holmes and some WWI chaps: three British cavalrymen (dismounted) and a half-dozen German infantry. I'm not totally happy with the Feldgrau or Holmes' coat, and I need to finish the bases and touch up the German officer's Papieren, but aside from those niggles, these chaps are about ready for varnishing. Enjoy!

Friday 7 October 2011

The Post With No Name

So called because I seem to have failed to slap a title on this before posting it. I was not even aware that was possible. Now read on!

Blind Date, a film starring Bruce Willis (pre-Die Hard) and Kim Basinger, begins very, very slowly. There wasn't anything to laugh at for a considerable amount of time, and then it devolved into a true slapstick farce. I think there were about four car crashes, all involving the same car. I am rather a fan of slapstick, so that sits well. Quite why the first half of the film didn't contain any jokes is beyond me, but the latter half is full to bursting. In the last two minutes of viewing, Bruce Willis has smashed the back window of his brother's car, and broken a bed by kicking it.

The Arachnids are going well. I've undercoated the lot of them, and have begun a test paint-scheme on a single model. Some Iyanden Darksun to catch the bits I missed with the spray, then some repeated, diluted layers of Bad Moon Yellow to get the acid yellow colour of the movie monsters, Ruby Red for the, er, red bits, and then Vallejo black. That's my thinking so far. I'll probably throw a wash or two in somewhere. Here's how the beasties look at present.

Thursday 6 October 2011

The trumpet calls us to the breach!

I think I have mentioned that I'm trundling through our film library. I've fallen happily on Branagh's Henry V, which is something of a surprise, given how unhappily I was smothered by Shakespeare's seeming tedium in school. Perhaps you presume I was bored by those tedious classroom readings when disinterested teenagers stumble through forgotten and unknown words. In fairness, who doesn't blink the first time they read floccinaucinihilipilification? No, that was not all. We had a few school trips to unedifying plays, too. I do not damn all plays as worthless. Some foolish opinion I read on IMDB the other day said they were good for nothing other than training actors for the screen. Anyway, this is a very pleasant business, although I have just sat in mute bafflement through a scene of McEwan and Thompson addressing one another almost solely in French rather too swiftly for my mind to comprehend, so distanced is it from the days of GCSE French.

On the wargaming front, I have two avenues of progress to report. First, I have been at work still on those 1/72 ACW chaps, Confederate and Union both. The Rebels have received a varied appearance, perhaps too much so. You may judge below. They've had a variety of colours and then a variety of washes served on them. Still none is yet finished, but much is done on about 85 models, half for either side, so conflict may soon be joined to restore the Union or, if you're so inclined, fight for the Bonny Blue Flag. I think Westerns as a child inclined me much toward the Union: dark blue jackets and pale blue trousers: why it's John Wayne in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon! Of course, one later on picks up rather more details - that whole reprehensible slavery business, for instance.

Second, and on a lighter note, I've also been at work on Arachnids. Years and years ago, I invested in the Starship Troopers game, but owing to an accident never got anywhere with the assembly. Two problems presented themselves: I lacked both superglue and the will to invest in it, the plastic being no lover of polystyrene cement. Next, I sat down with a friend to poke at the box, and he attempted to help me. Unfortunately, we had opposite approaches to these things. He detached everything from the sprues for ease of assembly. My face was a picture of horror when I saw it. I didn't and don't attach blame to him for doing it. Everyone has their different way of doing things. Because mine's different, the poor models ended up living in my attic until just the other day. Very little has gone missing from the monsters: just the lower jaw of an Arachnid. Nineteen of the twenty in the set are whole, though.

I did undercoat everything in black years ago, which was a silly idea. I couldn't paint yellow atop it, and gave up. Given everything was falling apart because poly cement was ineffective on that plastic, this was probably for the best! So tomorrow I shall venture forth and fetch myself some yellow paint from Halford's, so I can just paint the black and red atop it. Much more sensible a plan! Until then, dear readers, have a gander!

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!

The lasagna, which I made on Sunday, went well. I'm not sure how others will take to it - vegan cheese, like Scotch, is an acquired taste. Who was it said that an acquired taste is one not worth acquiring? Untrue, untrue! How could one have a taste for Ovid without a little acquisition of knowledge? However, whether the non-cheese would be universally appreciated or not, the appearance of the dish is unquestionably pleasing to the eye.

As well as this successful culinary expedition, I have thrust myself back into going through our film catalogue. Yesterday was the turn of Kiss the Girls,
a flick about Morgan Freeman hunting down a serial kidnapper-cum-rapist-cum-murderer. The ending is rather predictable, and yet one can be denied that small pleasure if one looks the film up on IMDB and their featured quotation reveals the mysterious monster's identity. Tsk-tsk! It was interesting to see the chap who played Doctor Emmett Meridian in Dexter turn up in something else. Today I've put myself through Outrageous Fortune, which was pleasant, but not worth wasting your time over, unless you like seeing George Carlin in small roles. As well as that, I exposed myself to Barbarella. The most peculiar part of the film is that the music seems so often totally divorced from everything else. It's a rather peculiar pile of events, unified only by a skimpy plot and a youthful and scantily clad Jane Fonda leaping on everything in sight. Aside from her amorous adventures, the most memorable scene for me was when she was sentenced to death by being sealed in a cage with hundreds of small birds - budgies and the like.

I dug through an old computer the other day, and ran across an account of a pre-Apocalypse-era battle I GM'd (badly) at uni. I can date the report to 2003/4 thanks to internal evidence. Oh, cunning of me, eh? Not really too interesting to you, though, so I shan't recount it all at length. The main points of the battle were as follows. We used an area 12' by 8', divided into two 12' by 4' strips. We had a designated attacker and defender, and the defender's had an HQ located in a fort my Granddad built for my brother, and which I had borrowed for the occasion. He still has it in his room: it's about 20" long on either side, although the gates aren't really quite wide enough for Chimera models and such, it made an impressive sight.

The events of the game suggest just why the chaps at GW formed the Apoc rules as they did. Our defenders didn't bother to occupy a network of defensive bunkers (and possibly not even the fort besides a single minor special character), and sallied forth to glorious combat. One wing of the attackers advanced so slowly that they took forever to get into combat. Only one player paid any heed to his objectives or to the cohesion and safety of his force. He ended the game on the verge of turfing the scant defenders of the fort out of their positions, so was probably a bit miffed! The fella representing critical reserves for the defender ambled off after turn 2, and the game stalled about turn five after six or seven hours of play. Heh! Then I seem to have gone off to console my then-fiancée who was upset about her post-graduate degree in Cultural Heritage Management. Two battles lost in one day! :-D

I must see if I can dig up some pictures from that battle. I know there are some extant from the era. Pictures of what I've been working on these last few days are right to hand, happily. First of all, there's a delightful Scotch from the Isle of Jura, Superstition, which by some happenstance, I bought for myself at the same time that my friend's sister bought it to congratulate him on passing his degree. So I feel I should congratulate him, too, and feel a bit abashed at buying myself Scotch. I'm sure we're both enjoying this stuff, as it's very "moreish", as the portion I have poured myself shows!

"Why, that's enough sippin' whiskey to bathe a man!" As well as noting that this Scotch is less ruddy than these pictures suggest (does Scotch get "red-eye"?), I'd also like to draw your attention to a friend's blog. He recently had an inspired idea, combining a beloved children's TV character with his Ogre army. I challenge you not to delight in the idea and in his skill with Greenstuff. Here, meanwhile, I have been distracting myself by fiddling about with some 1/72 plastics. I have a large box of these fellas, sat securely on a shelf over my sink, covering many periods. I can remember Romans and Gauls, Mediaeval Knights, Conquistadors and Aztecs, Seven Years War Austrians and Prussians, all sorts of Napoleonics (although mainly French and British), a fair whack of WWII vehicles and infantry, including several jeeps I purchased, intending to run a game based on that Michael Caine film all of you will recognise if I mention these clues: Winston Churchill, paratroopers.

But what I have been working on has been the ACW infantry I have here. I haven't decided what to do with these models yet. Well, I mean to use them for skirmish gaming, as I have only Johnny Reb and Billy Yank infantry. Nary a gun nor horseman is to be seen. I have elected to give Johnny Reb a variegated look, while Billy Yank is getting a somewhat uniform, er, uniform. I started off giving the Bluebellies an Ultramarine Blue jacket, but it struck me as a bit bright, so I have switched now to the Foundation Paint Fenris Grey. Pop some Leviathan Purple or Asurmen Blue Wash over that, and it's just about right. The trousers are Lightning or Ice Blue, I think. I don't intend to throw too many hours into producing these guys, and I always seem to produce somewhat manky-looking 1/72 stuff, no matter how hard I try, so these guys will just get some basic coats of paint then a few washes to tie everything together. Here's how they look so far. Until next time, dear reader!

Sunday 2 October 2011


What an inauspicious beginning to October. I went out to buy some odds and ends to make lasagna, and am now a little sunburned. As a result of sunshine in Britain. In October. I always find that sunburn makes me a bit lethargic. So do high temperatures. It was about 24/25 last night, and is again tonight, and today it was about 30 Celsius for ages. If we discount the consumption of ice lollies (which is up considerably), then my productivity has inarguably fallen.

Add to that that I am feeling a bit of general burn-out, and you can see this will be one of those chatty updates, not graced with pretty pictures. In defence of purple, prolix prose, I have just been stumbling through Gibbon's tenth chapter, and had to give up because the heat has made my brain too fuzzy. Er, see! That proves my point. That sentence was supposed to be about Gibbon being verbose, and that his rhetorical style, with its balanced Tacitean structure, was making me all wordy. The heat's sabotaged my brain to such an extent that sentences sidle subtly off, slipping out of sight to change their appearance.

Aye, I was meaning to do some work on some 6mm Napoleonics I have had sat about for ages, but I just can't summon the will. Nor can I command myself to get back to the Livery Stable, nor those Basilisks. Nothing in that line appeals. Gibbon is hard work for my heated head, and I don't fancy watching another film. I've been watching Westerns and generally trying to get through all the films in our library - OK, not Tomb Raider 2 or Titanic - so I've got film burn-out, too. Pale Rider is an interesting Western, well worth a look. Having just watched it the other night, I shan't be following my own advice, so where's that leave me? I'm too muzzy-headed to read, and disinclined to fiddle with plasticard or balsa, to paint anything, and even to watch a film. It's the wrong time of day for a walk - well, maybe not: at least I can't get more sunburn at this hour! - so I'm running a bit low on ideas.

In this moment of inaction, all that strikes me is to have a glass of wine. It's quite pleasant, which is a surprise, as red is generally not my preferred hue of fermented grape. Then again, I don't believe I've tried a Chianti before. Film aficionados take note: I am not eating anyone's liver with some Fava beans. Where'd I find this Chianti, you ask? Well, when I went out to pick up bits and bobs, it was because I had a hankering for lasagna, so I had to head over to Hanley - blessed with a Holland and Barrett and a Sainsbury's (as well as a Tesco's too annoying to visit), it's the closest place this side of Manchester where I'm likely to acquire all I need. Granted, the only two things I could not have collected in my own town were the vegan cheese and this wine, but I stand by my desire to go have a drive! My irritation with Tesco's in Hanley, by the way, springs from the requirement that one get a ticket on entering the car park and have it endorsed at the till prior to leaving. The branch of Sainsbury's is blessed by an absence of such a niggling detail.

Having thus ambled about in the appalling sunshine and hellish temperatures (refer to my picture and behold my ginger hair and pallid skin, should my dismay at sunlight and heatwaves amaze you), I headed home, but already the touch of the son was apparent, and I have put off my lasagna until tomorrow comes.

When it does, Portobello (isn't it nice that there's more than one way to spell that word and yet my internet spell checker knows none?) mushroom, red onion, garlic, basil, garlic, thyme, tomatoes, stock and pepper will unite with vegemince, and then be sunk into layers of lasagna, before the whole is coated with a concoction of vegan cheese and soya cream and soya milk. I do like having a poke about the kitchen, although in summer (and I call an October day with 30 degree highs summer!), I am rather frightened off by the Aga we have.

Perversely, we're turning it off when winter starts so as to save money. It strikes me we shall thus be mirroring my old school's practice: ensure that the heating is not turned on until as deep into winter as possible, yet keep it on as long as possible when the weather improves. Perhaps the staff were secretly cooking children, and covering it up by using the radiators as a distraction. It seems unlikely, I agree. Right, I'm going to stop now. Fingers crossed next time I update there'll be pictures and so forth. Farewell, readers!
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