Sunday 29 January 2012

A silo, an Alien Thingy and some French infantrymen

It's a bit funny, the Alien Thingy. On the one hand, I'm very happy with it, as it looks quite perturbing and out of place. On the other hand, it doesn't merge into the ground around it, and I am not sure that I ought not to have used Greenstuff to effect a more gradual, sinewy, sinuous transition. I am still not quite happy with the silo, but there is a finite number of times I am prepared to apply dilute blue paint and wait for it to dry, only - having photographed it - to discover that it still isn't right. I have reached that number. I am much happier with the infantry. Don't let the flash fool you. They are considerably darker in person. This means the blue looks better, but the red is not so brilliant. Tsk!

In theory, they could do with a few more details here and there: some more yellow piping on the lieutenant's hat and little red tabs on the men's collars (I am not mad enough even to consider applying invisible blue numerals to reveal their loyalty). I notice there are some problems, but I think that I shall leave well enough alone or end up never finishing them. They have languished long enough, my poor poilus! I think the three men are Renegade and the officer is from Great War Miniatures. I have a St. Etienne HMG somewhere about. I must dig it out once I have the rest of the chaps done. I think there are 25 or so, mostly clustered in a vegan ice-cream tub beside me.

Thursday 26 January 2012

The procrastinatory impulse

It's funny that I apparently consider time-wasting associated with an impulse. It would perhaps be more sensible to say that such dilatory behaviour is associated with a lack of drive. Nonetheless, it feels rather like that at the minute. I fancied I'd do some work on the trench about now, but I can't gee myself up to it. I could earlier have gone out and seen what Macclesfield's Games Workshop is like of a Thursday night. I have been meaning to go for some weeks now, but I keep putting it off - there's always a reason, and it's usually a poor one. The irony here is that I don't fancy working on the trench right now because I want to be out somewhere, seeing friends, having a chat with them. Had I gone out, I might have made friends. Having stayed in, I now wish I had gone! I can't go out now, mind, as nobody I know is likely to take kindly to me turning up just before midnight for a chin-wag.

Tomorrow I shall be out, just like last week, in Newcastle. That's the Stoke one, not the one anybody has heard of. Last week, when I was out on Saturday in Congleton, the two young ladies I spoke with were a bit nonplussed at my referring to my friends as hailing from Newcastle. My friends were wrapped up against the cold, so even the most amateur Sherlock my see a discrepancy! Anyway, last week I had a disastrous time out, as I related. Let us hope that tomorrow will be an improvement. If it ain't, I might be moved to bowdlerise my language. I fancy I shall have something to say, anyway, as last night (well, this morning, a glance at my computer's clock assures me) I finished Wuthering Heights and thought it exceptionally good. Technical skill was married to a very sophisticated handling of the reader's emotions, and the tale itself was very absorbing. It has gone a long way to destroying my former distaste for "classic literature". I am even minded to re-read Great Expectations . . . some day . . . but I have a good twenty classics to get through before that sinister tome looms portentously from my bedside table. Don't expect me to reconsider Dickens soon!

I am currently engaged on The Great Gatsby for the following reasons: it is on this list of classics, and it is ridiculously short. This tiny paperback before me reaches its demise at page 163, but the blessed thing doesn't even start till page 19. I do worry that this list I have resolved to read is ridiculously downbeat. There seem very few comedies on it. That seems also to be the same with a few lists of films I am poking at. Earlier tonight BBC2 showed an episode of the quiz show Pointless, in which one question "gave a hundred people a hundred seconds" to name as many of Mel Brooks' films as they could. Richard, the clever chap who sits at a desk with a computer, told us that one of these, The Producers, had received an Oscar (or somesuch) for the script. That reminded me that I hadn't really liked that film. It didn't amuse me nearly so much as Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs or Young Frankenstein. Maybe I am just a philistine, incapable of self-improvement - although having just read Wuthering Heights (which deals in part with illiteracy and the perception of illiterates by the literate),* and being engaged in watching classic films and reading classic literature, I doubt that.

I shall be awake a few hours yet, as my sleeping pattern has gone awry again. Do not fear that I shall waste that whole time, even though the trench will be untouched until tomorrow. It dwells in the attic above my parents' room, and my heavy tread on the Victorian floorboards is not conducive to Mum's rest. Dad wouldn't notice a thing, I fancy! I have some bits and pieces to distract me down here, and I might even get a good ol' wargaming (well, terrain which might possibly be used for 'gaming) post up tomorrow. Until then, fare thee well.

* My apologies for all that repetition. My vocabulary here is not up to what it was at the start of this blog! I shan't discuss the tale at this juncture because I have that thoroughly illogical feeling that possesses me on reading a book I have not read: that I should hem and haw around it, no matter that it be a few thousand years old (less than two centuries in this case, of course). I'll need a bit to get over it.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Back to the West: more Wild West terrain

Yonks ago I left a water tower unfinished as I lacked PVA glue, and I left a bridge unfinished because I needed a base for it. Well, one of those situations has been rectified. I thought I had a base for the bridge, but it turns out I have made it such a towering thing that I need to get it its own 2' by 4' board. That's the only way to resolve the way it towers over the scenery, as the pictures below show. The water tower is nicely done now. The circular core is a piece of plastic drainpipe, which has been wrapped round with balsa planks. The metal bands are plasticard studded with plasticard rivets.

The black (-ish) tarpaulin over the lot is why I needed the PVA. It's made from tissue paper imperganted with diluted PVA. After everything was dry, I undercoated the whole piece in yellow, then set about staining the different planks and faux-planks in an assortment of colours. I painted the tarpaulin black, then drybrushed a cream housepaint over it all. I then applied a coat of black, then of GW Boltgun metal to the plasticard bands, and dotted the rivets - and applied scratches - with Mithril Silver. I hope to get the bridge done inside of a month. Really, I need to get some more polystyrene, too. We'll see.

Monday 23 January 2012

Playing Favourites

Following in the stead of two very fine bloggers, Big Lee and Admiral Drax, I am minded to join in with the fun!

Wargames Period - Probably Napoleonics. There's nowt so fine as a beautiful, extravagantly-tailored uniform. After that would follow quite closely the ACW. I think I'm probably a good choice for a real-life ACW general: y'see, I tend to do dreadfully and I have always liked the Union (nothing moral about it in childhood - I simply liked John Wayne in blue!).

Scale - I find myself a bit torn here. I started with 1/72 plastics. I moved onward to GW's 25/28mm stuff. In the last decade or so I have acquired sizeable 15mm and 6mm forces, which I want to like. I do find the 6mm stuff a bit small for me at my advanced age (31 as of this moment), but I love the 1:2500 (or is it 2400?) Star Trek stuff. the 25/28mm stuff is really nicest for skirmishing and so on, but I am more of a fan of smaller bits and bobs for larger games.

Rules - Shako, incontestably. I drift back to uni, when I used to game against two or three good mates, and one of us would invariably get hammered by the others. They were excellent games.

Boardgame - Imperial Governor is my poison of choice. It was languishing in a cupboard in Greece when I found it. Having drawn it forth, I withdrew with it to England, then sallied off to uni in Wales, whereat I played it with a trio (usually) of good men. It was an interminable game, and I don't think we managed to finish it more than once or twice in several years' time. I would like to be able to say that nobody who played it when I was at uni has died, and happily I can do that. One chap nearly went blind, but that wasn't related to the game. Another fella was a wee bit Irish, but he had that affliction afore the game. Actually, so did I, but I was less Irish. Bloody good game, and I must get everyone back together again for a rematch which we all will lose!

Figure manufacturer - Copplestone has been my favourite fella for years. Those 28mm skirmish lads have just been grand. Musketeer Miniatures have a lovely selection of slender Great War era minis that deserve a solid second place.

Metal/Hard Plastic - I have been a plastic lover (oo-er?) since at least 2000, because the blamed stuff can be glued together with poly cement, while metal requires superglue, which clings tight on my fingertips. Villainy!

Club - I suppose the one to nominate here is my old uni club, Lampeter (which is now St. David's College, University of Wales or somesuch). I have meant for three weeks now to go to the GW one in Macclesfield or to the Macclesfield one which meets in the local 'Spoons, but there hasn't been a good opportunity.

Opponent - Christian, who is, aside from Dad, just about the only fella I have fought in the last many, many years. I think in about '08 I had a game with mark, but it's been Mr C whenever he has been back from abroad in the far-off wilds of Korea. I accidentally gave myself a huge advantage once, playing him at 40K, and he still made a creditable showing. I tend to roll terrible dice, so you can decide whether I was unlucky or he fortunate!

Film - Zulu is probably the leader here, followed by A Bridge Too Far.

Book - Featherstone's Complete Wargaming has long been my wargaming Bible. Even to this day I will go back to it and consider this piece of advice or that suggestion. More important than these modern things, it is the first book I ever owned on the subject, and the first that provided me some wargaming rules (for the ACW, which I dimly recall playing).

Art - I am terrible when it comes to art. I'd like to say that guy who does those gorgeous ACW pictures or the fella who does those beautiful Napoleonic pictures, but you will get what most entrances me, and that's nowt from wargames at all. Pick any picture you like of Audrey Hepburn.

The Interweb - This is tricky, but the place which has given the most to me lately is indubitably Front Line Gamer.

Sunday 22 January 2012

The Autodidact

Isn't that a great word? The very first time I heard that, God knows when, I thought it sounded imposing and impressive. It means someone who is self-taught, so it has connotations good and bad. Even before my (not-quite-) year-old new lease of life, I have always associated the good with it. I think of the girl who, immersed in a Francophone community, learns French, or the impoverished student who spends his every waking hour in the library, studying an original text. It is an inspirational word for me, and that is why I like it so much.

A year or few ago the BBC released a list of five score books, of which list they opined an average Briton would have read half a dozen. Some I knew to be good, others I knew were awful, a handful carried their reputations before them like standards - not always to their benefit. At school I was introduced to a series of dull books (or perhaps books I wasn't ready for), which quite put me of so-called "Classics of Literature". Luckily, this list contained a few books I had read, as well as some I had given up on, and some few books of foreign origin. The BBC decided not to have too many of these, lest they terrify Britons reading the list. We Angles can be trusted to distrust extraordinary writings as easily as we distrust the European Union. Happily, school had taught me to fear "Classics of English Literature", and so I dived into One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was superlative.

Having thus been exposed ever so slightly to the chance that "Classics of Literature" might perhaps be ok, and that "Classics of English Literature" could just possibly be readable, too, I embarked on a slippery slope. I tried Pride and Prejudice, but was too filled with pride to overcome my prejudice against the work. Or was I too weighed down with sensibilities to let my sense incline me to like Sense and Sensibility? Something Austen was my bugbear a year or two ago in Greece. I had always liked Orwell, as Animal Farm was one of the few tiny tomes that schooling did not ruin for me. So I recently trundled into 1984. It would be mad to say that it was a delight, but it was a great piece of work. To Kill A Mockingbird recently reared its head, and I partly enjoyed it, too, despite finding it horribly dated in parts. I suspect anything from that era, pertaining to race-relations and set in the Deep South would make most people gasp today.

Tonight I was filled with pleasure at having finished Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which was acclaimed a joy when I was still a child. So I decided to pluck out one book, and then another, and then a vast collection from the shelves of the house. I enlisted the rest of the family in locating what we have in the house, and my brother, who nobly volunteers at a local charity shop, also noted down several volumes which I might purchase thence. I have read sixty pages of the 333 pages of my mother's youthful copy of Wuthering Heights. I am not aghast at the turgid prose. I am not bored out of my wits at the senseless blather of the characters. I am honestly interested in how the story will progress. Of course, we all know the general scheme, but every Athenian knew the legend of Medea, and still they turned up at Euripides' tragedy. the telling is as vital as the tale.

I have about a dozen gaily-decorated convocations of paper to get through, and then another several from my brother's shop or that he has located about the house. After all of that I might push my way to having completed half of this BBC list of a hundred books. I shall never complete it all. It contains The Da Vinci Code, The Lord of the Rings, Great Expectations and a few other books I would rather flee at than read. But I shall do my best to raise the number as high as I can - without funding The Da Vinci Code. ;-)

Saturday 21 January 2012

A Disastrously Good Time!

Last night was a bit of a disaster. Last Friday I had told Mawbs and Deaks that "next week" we'd go and talk to scary wimminz.* Unfortunately, Mawbs misunderstood me to be referring to tonight, Saturday. As it turned out, all the pretty girls who had been out for several Fridays in succession were suddenly and inexplicably absent from Newcastle last night. In short, bugger all happened except me complaining that teenagers look like teenagers. Frustrating. Anyway, tonight was a grand improvement. Mawbs, Nath, B & Laura all came over to Congleton for some drinks. Then we had a Thai and resolved to have a couple more drinks. L decided to go into this pub rather than that pub, and then had no idea where to update her telephonic-internet-a-ma-jig location to.

So I asked the two comely girls at the next table what the pub's name was, and we got to chatting after they had overcome their surprise that a native of Congleton should not know the pub's name. Mawbs was most surprised of all that I remembered, when introducing our party, to call him by his forename, which is something I almost never do. Public schools can leave one calling people by their surnames for years, and leave one baffled when Lib Dem councillors are accused of rudeness for so doing (apologies for being unable to find that story with a quick google, but the chap's name escaped me). Anyway, things were going well, and they suggested we meet up with them in the next place, as both our groups were coincidentally going to Wetherspoon's. So we arrived, and they were at a four-seat table, and there were five of us plus the two of them. My friends cheerily told me to trundle along, and so I went and continued the chat. Unfortunately for me, lacking Mawbs to engage the other girl, Angie, the conversation hit a bump, and there was a languor of about a minute, in which time the girl I was interested in, Scooby (nickname from an odd boss years ago), texted her ex. When a girl checks her 'phone every few seconds for a text from her ex, I think I can read the signs, so I politely excused myself, and wished her the best of luck (sincerely, though you are welcome to doubt my sincerity :-D ).

There then followed some commiseration from my friends, and some rather chipper analysis of the sequence of events from me: "'I don't know where I am! Help!' is a good chat up line. Mawbs, we'll try that in Revolution next week. Er, hang on." So it didn't go as well as it might have, but it went quite well, I felt, given I haven't been in that sort of situation (of chatting up a girl at a bar) for about seven years. I did feel a certain amount of anxiety, but I was never terrified. If I'd tried doing that a year ago, I would have been a nervous wreck. Given the circumstances, I'd say that was a pretty good bit of work, albeit something to build on rather than something to be proud of in itself.** I managed not to talk quite so much, too, though I did say some fairly dumb things. It was a good foundation for next week, anyway! I learned the valuable lesson that if you can't think of owt to say, it helps to have someone else there to keep the conversation going. So that's what wingmen are for!

* I should throw in an explanation here, as it's a wee bit unfair to expect anyone to be up-to-date not only with my mind but also the minds of my offline mates. Except you psychics. You doubtless know every nuance of every word I type. For the rest, the situation is as follows. I don't find the fairer sex frightening. I used to, just like I found my own (fouler?) sex frightening. Strangers scared me! I'm better now and "scary wimminz" is used in a self-consciously self-mocking fashion.
** Several friends will promptly disagree (as Nathan did a short time ago) on the reasonable ground that I haven't done anything like this in years, so even baby steps are still better than nowt!

Friday 20 January 2012

Aptness in blogging

It's inarguable and obvious to me that when I wrote the other day of the pang I experienced at not being in the position of collecting bits and bobs for a life of charming domesticity, that one of the key things running through my mind was that a grand old friend has just had a darling wee baby, and has asked me to be his Best Man in May. Compounding that this evening was the revelation that two more of my dearest friends are expecting a wee one in several months' time. I love babies and I get a bit "squee!" about them. Of course, one of the doubtless attractions of babies is that I just see them being all cute and wrinkly, and am never called upon to change them or do much more than cuddle them!

Anyway, there is always a dark side to everything, and there is one here. "What, Pete? How can there be a dark side to babies? Is there an ancestral curse? Are hordes of vampires waiting to descend? Is a shapeshifter waiting in the wings to malignantly steal away the newborn?" No, none of that, you hot-head! Look at my last blog entry. I am all set to go out and try to chat up a pretty (and I hope clever and pleasant) young lady, and all I have in my head is thoughts of babies. There are other ways to scare off a prospective first date, but they involve quoting lines from films and TV series at her, as I remarked yesterday. Let us end, nonetheless, on a high note: nothing tonight can get me down. I can strike out about a dozen times and still be lifted up by thinking, "Babies! Awesome!"

Thursday 19 January 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum today

Kev, you asked for a non-wargaming one, so here you go!

I really do just shoehorn inaccurate titles in, don't I? In fact, I popped to a contemporary supermarket today. I didn't jump in the Delorean and zip back to practise my Latin and buy some olive oil from some chap not wearing trousers. I was picking up a few ingredients for a chocolate and rum cheesecake I made for Mum, for which the recipe follows. Anyway, I also picked up a picture frame. Some friends bought me some beautiful pictures of Audrey Hepburn for Christmas, so I need frames for them. Since I was in the "household stuff" bit of the store, there were all sorts of bits and bobs lying around. It gave me a momentary pang that at thirty, when so many of my contemporaries have long since picked out decorations for their own homes, I am not in sight of that milestone. Well, in a sense.

I have bowls, plates, ramekins and various kitchen bits and pieces upstairs, and downstairs a set of saucepans,* all residue from my relationship with Jenny. I am surrounded by bookcases and so on, likewise residue from said relationship. In the main, however, I don't have that accumulated pile of possessions, and I rather felt that lack for a few seconds. Then I went and finished my shopping. Tomorrow night I am going out with Mawbs and Deak, and we are going to try our hand at entrancing the good ladies of Newcastle-under-Lyme. I doubt I'll be back here tomorrow night declaring I have met my true love, but it's a start. Sometimes one doesn't want to admit to oneself that one's wary of relationships, having been hurt in the past. Sometimes one uses the third person to make things seem yet more distant! :-D

Tomorrow night should be amusing, at the very least. If my honest attempts at chatting to a lady fall down, I shall fall back on comedy. That said, I have been advised repeatedly in very definite terms that I am not permitted to use my favourite lines. First, from Futurama, a line uttered by Bender in his sleep, "Hey, sexy momma, wanna kill all humans?" Second, from Back to the Future, "I'm George, George McFly. My density has popped me to you." I think the former will be my exit line if things go badly, as it always amuses me. The latter has a little more history. I was out with Mawbs some time before last February, and we espied two pretty girls on the far side of the room. Pretty is a rather insubstantial adjective, and anyway, could only fairly be applied to one of the young ladies.** Her companion was a vision of beauty. You won't believe it, but I'll tell you anyway. She not only looked quite like the actress Natalie Portman, but appeared even prettier.

This was before I had my hypnotherapy session last year, so I wanted to talk to her, but didn't know how. Only the acquisition and consumption of some Dutch Courage (strange that I have never seen such a brand of alcohol on sale) gave me the strength to perambulate to the far side of the room, dragging Mawbs, unwilling as he was wise, with me. Faint heart never won fair lady, as the saying goes, and that rather scuppered me before I began. We got there, and I turned about, the room being full of people, and rather loud, we had probably not been observed. Mawbs was about as nervous as I was, but less laden with "Courage", and sought to persuade me that, as I had no plan or opening line ready, I should beat a tactful withdrawal. While he was right in one sense, in another I felt a personal need to at least make an attempt. I realised that if I let my brain engage, that it would concur with Mawbs, and talk me out of action, as it had done for years before last February.

So I shut off my brain, turned round, and declaimed to Natalie Portman's prettier twin the first thing that my brain offered me, "I'm George, George McFly. My density has popped me to you." Her response was confusion, even when I repeated the line, so I apologised and beat a tactful retreat. My courage was just about up to an unsuccessful attempt, but not to a prolonged siege! Mawbs then explained to them that I wasn't an escaped mental patient, and shortly thereafter rejoined me. So that's the history of that line. Funnily enough, I suspect that that recounting would go down quite well as an introductory story tomorrow - provided I was sensible enough to excise the information that the lady in question was drop-dead gorgeous. Even beautiful women are often self-conscious about whether their beauty measures up to that of others.

Tomorrow night we two, armed with a third in the form of Deaks, will sally forth to battle the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I am a little worried it won't go well, and a little worried that it shall. I'm not the same chap I was this time a year ago, though, so I will be making the attempt. One cannot damn oneself to inconsequence and inactivity, waiting in terror behind the DJ booth for that pretty girl you have your eye on to come talk to you. Well, since that worked perfectly well with Jenny, as she sought me out, let us say that one cannot do it twice! I may recount that tale at a future point. With the best possible will toward her, I rather hope to find someone of finer qualities tomorrow. Anyway, if you are in N-u-L tomorrow and see that fella who's visible on this blog in a tiny picture by the name Pete, but with a thin ginger beard drawn on him that ain't in the pic, then that's, er, Mawbs or possibly Deak. I'll probably write something when I return tomorrow night on this. Au revoir, mes amis!

Recipe for Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

200-300g Sainsbury's ginger biscuits***
100g margarine
170g dark chocolate
225g vegan cream cheese spread****
50ml Captain Morgan's rum
Some blanched almonds (for decoration and because almonds are great)
Some dried cranberries (as many as you like, really)

1. Pulverise biscuits.
2. Melt margarine and mix in with biscuit bits.
3. Make the base with the above (Steps 1&2) mixture.
4. Melt dark chocolate.
5. Add as many dried cranberries as you like, the rum, the melted chocolate and the vegan cream cheese and mix thoroughly until a lovely chocolatey paste is formed. Don't worry about the cranberries being lumpy so long as everything else is well-mixed.
6. Smooth the chocolate mixture atop the ginger biscuit base.
7. Decorate with almonds and leave to chill.
8. Heart failure. :-D

* Which Dad has murdered by repeatedly putting them in the washing machine. Top tip #1: non-stick coating does not like to stay on when dumped in one of those things. Top tip #2: one can stop Dad doing it repeatedly, but he'll always end up doing it again.
** I use young lady rather indiscriminately. We weren't chatting up toddlers. I think the ladies were in the early to mid-twenties.
*** 200g will give a thinner and more coherent base, but 300g seems to work quite well. These are just about the only vegan biscuits they have these days, sadly. I think their Rich Tea ones are ok still.
**** I used Tofutti today and Scheeze last week and both worked perfectly well.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Terrain: Rocks and ruins, watertower and wire

I pulled my finger out last night, thanks to the film Aliens. I find it a joy to work to. So I popped that on in the background and got down to work. I had knocked up some asteroids from polystyrene foam ages ago, and now I finally painted them (Figs.1&5). There are three basic shades: ruddy iron ore, grey rock and brownish dust. Then I set to work on a big ruin that I found in the attic the other day (figs.2&3). I put it up there ages ago, because I had no sand, and quite forgot all about it. I've dabbed it with side and roof hatches, and sprinkled some sand on there, but I need to get some decorations to PVA onto the sides. Just a matter of looking through boxes of bits, that!

Next I made flesh an idea I had while working on my WWI/40K barbed wire the other week. I shan't link to Wikipedia to back this up, because they're down for the day, protesting some tyrannical American legislation (Come back, Colonies, all is forgiven. ;-) ). Erm, seriously, though, as I understand it barbed wire turns up in the American West, used to fence in large areas cheaply. So I fancied I'd turn my hand to replicating that kind of barbed wire, rather than the defensive structures of WWI. I had a spare piece about, into which I had long ago secured wood and foam. So I got some of the plastic mesh, and wound it round the bits of dowel at two heights, and once on either side (Figs.4&6). Whether this is strictly historically accurate or no, it gives a reasonable impression of the sort of barbed wire I see hereabouts. Having done so, I found a water tower I had delayed work on for want of PVA glue. I quickly fashioned some iron bindings for the wooden sides out of thin plasticard, glued on some rivets, and then secured some tissue paper atop the whole with diluted PVA (Fig.6). One of these days I must get back to painting a few figures rather than constantly making terrain!

Still, it's important to do what one loves. Speaking of which, I haven't been getting quite so much done of late, because I have been remedying my empty boxes of books by ticking off literary classics. Amazingly, some of these are turning out to be rather good in defiance of all the times I was ordered at school to enjoy a dull book! Then again, a thirty-one year old ain't the same as a teenager, so maybe my younger self was right at the time. No, that's unfair. I've read To Kill A Mockingbird, in which one character, Jem, is described thus, ""no tutorial system ever devised could stop him from getting at books". So let it be with Caesar, er, Pete! Delusions of grandeur. I have also begun Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which is - again - a rather good read thus far (about a hundred pages in of a total of 434).

It is a shame how certain didactic methods wreck reading for people. I've mentioned Mum's travails in school with The Wind in the Willows: having been told they would be reading it, she went home and read it, only to discover that they would spend the next term in an agony of slowly going through it. I was chatting to the lady at the Job Centre on Monday about it, and she confided in me how school had put her off Shakespeare. Hah! So it isn't just me who wanted to bash that Bard, I thought. I am no Jem, and some authors I am intensely wary of: John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Austen, the Brontes and the peerless Dan Brown.

Tolkien I am just about scared of by now. I have attempted to read the snore-fest that is Lord of the Rings about a dozen times now, the last time even soliciting a passage I was assured by a fan was intensely exciting (I think it was the escape from the Ring Wraiths at Weathertop and Frodo's instalment in that Elven City). I managed not to fall asleep, but I am now too frightened to reread The Hobbit (which I enjoyed as a little boy) lest it turns out that it is unreadably dull. I have fragmentary memories that it, too, contains Hobbits singing at least once a chapter. If ever I were to become a terrorist (rather unlikely, but bear with me), the Americans could quite easily torture me by giving me only that as a book. The films were good, though, albeit a bit long. Anyway, I have probably enraged half the readership now by attacking Tolkien's abilities and another quarter by saying how dreadful I find Shakespeare, so I shall quit while I'm behind, relying on the pics to restore my good favour in your hearts, gentle readers. Until next time!

Monday 16 January 2012


I get quite narked when technology goes weird. I use an EeePC 900 because my non-Hobbit-sized computer died. The screen is tiny, so I have plugged it into a large screen. The mousepad is minuscule, and the keyboard more of a keypad, so I have connected a Logitech Bluetooth connector to use a full-sized keyboard and mouse. This has worked well for a while, but this evening a fly has buzzed into my ointment. The attached mouse moves around quite happily, and the menu button is fine, but the selecting button has decided to go on strike. The keyboard still works fine. The problem might not lie with the mouse, though. You see, the EeePC's own mousepad's left button is also refusing to responding to gentle or vigorous tapping. I am compelled to drum my fingers on the mousepad. That, at least, still has some effect! If anyone has any ideas, I welcome them. Don't suggest peeling a potato and rubbing that on the technology, as that works on warts, not recalcitrant machines.

Grumble, grumble, grumble!

Busy, busy, busy: terrain again!

First, I have been hard at work on a 2' by 4' trench board (Figs.1-4. I'm making a determined effort to finish off my trench so that I can deploy the full 12' of it. This board will be the central one, with two FW turret hardpoints and a central command bunker. It's also got a frontage of crunchy barbed wire goodness to hold up those villainous attackers, whoever they are. I started work on a couple of small ruined buildings, first covering them in sand (Figs.5-7). I quickly finished the last foot of barbed wire (Fig.8), then hurried back and gave a quick coat of paint to the two ruins, adding some rusty pipes to one for a dash of colour, and giving both a bit of scrubby undergrowth (Figs.9-13). I then thought I'd finished off a silo (Fig.14), until I looked at this picture again and saw that I'd quite forgotten to do the base! Too enthusiastic, that's my trouble. I should have that done by tomorrow.

The ruins were a simple matter of finding some suitable bits of polystyrene packagaing, and bashing them about a bit to enhance the look. I then glued them to bases, waited, applied sand all over with diluted PVA, secured it with diluted PVA, and, after waiting again, basecoated the lot of black. I drybrushed light grey and then cream onto the stone/concrete portions, and then applied brown house paint to the ground portions, which I then drybrushed with cream. That having dried, I stuck on some clump foliage. The ruins are the sort of things one can dash off quite quickly. They could be improved in a lot of ways, but they look pretty good for the amount of effort put in. Right, that's all for now. Enjoy the pics, and I should have another update tomorrow.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Sherlock: gone for another aeon!

The only complaint I can fairly lay against the BBC's modernised adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories is the fact that each series is but three episodes long. Granted, they are nice and long, but one has just three weeks of enjoyment followed by an age of waiting! OK, in honesty, I wasn't too keen on the second episode of the first series, feeling the idea of Chinese gangsters was a bit passé. This series has been delightful. In the first episode we were treated to a nice in-joke. The episode names have been known for a long time (A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall), all plays on the titles of the original stories. So in the opening scene of Scandal we had a series of short comic scenes in which other adulterated names came up. My favourites were The Speckled Blonde (originally Band) and The Geek (originally Greek) Interpreter. It reveals both a delight in the original and a desire to delight other fans.

Of course, the show is not for everyone. My mother does not want to see an updated Holmes, so hasn't watched them. I know another few folks who aren't keen on the alterations made to the original tales. I shall always have a love for the Granada series with the late Jeremy Brett in the lead role, but I have another friend who finds his fluctuating weight (a result of his illness) too great a detriment to the whole. Ironically, given that Holmes' schtick is his excellent observational abilities, I had never noticed this at all. Others swear by the Russian adaptations, which won the actor playing Holmes an honorary OBE. I would that my Russian consisted of more than a scant few words, because I have been unable to enjoy (some kindly fellow's Youtube upload of) their adaptation of The Speckled Band on account of the modern language used in the subtitles. "Yeah" just seems a bit odd to be coming from a period Watson.

I admit it might seem perverse for me to praise a modern adulteration one second, then backhand a faithful adaptation the next. Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall go to see the Downey film. I greatly enjoyed the first one. Lest purists be screaming, I offer this explanation: I went to see it knowing full well that it would not be Holmes. Explosions, nudity and leaping out of windows into the Thames? Hah! I expected Hollywood silliness, and I received it in abundance. I don't doubt there will be more in this sequel. To be fair, Law's Watson struck me as very faithful to the spirit of the original character: a bizarre occurrence in a film that played so amusingly fast and loose with even basic common sense!

I have, it will surprise many to learn, been hard at work on 'gaming things this week, although I have yet to provide photographic evidence of this! I can't quite explain why I haven't been posting loads this week. Perhaps, like Holmes, it is because I had a fit of activity, then fell off a bit this week. Anyway, tomorrow I shall get some pictures up and restore the balance of the universe. Another distraction this week has been books, I confess. I have begun to reread Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, a childhood favourite, toyed with having another crack at Caleb Carr's Angel of Darkness (it is a good work, but I became distracted when I was reading it, so I shall have to start again. Much the same fault befell Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Come to think of it, has she written anything since?), lunged into Stel Pavlou's Decipher (why won't my italics work?), which is a thoroughly ridiculous novel. If you imagine that funny film, The Core (now they work?), in which the Earth's core stops spinning, you will have some idea of the science in this book: the sun's a secret pulsar, for instance.

Lastly, I have begun To Kill A Mockingbird. I had found and snapped up a DVD going cheap the other day, as it is on a list of films to watch. I was then pleased to discover a copy of the book, which is on a list of books I have to read, hiding in a bedroom on a bookshelf. Cunning devils, books: you never know where they'll be! It provided a double reminder of something I have mentioned on this blog in the past: that school put me off "classics of literature" and I have only recently been giving them their fair turn at the wheel after years of Star Wars novels and Terry Pratchett. Don't take that as a dig at either of those. Anyway, it's very readable, and I have been thoroughly absorbed by the milieu. I did give Jane Austen a try the September before last, but she still does nothing for me. I could see where the jokes were in the first chapter or two, but they bounced off my thick heid.* Perhaps in another five years I'll have another go. Speaking of going, I shall be back tomorrow with some pictures of the week's physical work. Adieu!

* I don't know that switching to Scots to allow me to suggest head and hide in one word was a good idea, but I'm leaving it in.

Monday 9 January 2012

Terrain: 4' of barbed wire complete, towers and rocket coming along nicely

I have finished off most of the barbed wire, as you can see below (figs.1-4). The final foot (fig.5) needs weathering powders, leaves and varnish, and should be done and dusted by this evening. The Alien Thingy (fig.6) has had a coat of black paint, and successive dry(ish)-brushes of gradually lighter greys. The bronze silo (figs.7&9) has had another wash of Ice Blue, and is looking better. I still need to go back in and deal with a few dodgy looking spots. The rocket (fig.8) has had its basic colour scheme and some very gentle damaging of its pristine paintwork. Now will have a varnish, then some transfers. I thought the fancy silo (fig.10) was a bit too fancy, so have given it a very light wash of that Foundation orange (Macharius, IIRC), which has come out a bit like a light rust and a little like dirt. I think I'll hit it with a few more types of dirt, then leave it. It probably won't be getting varnished, as the matte would kill the metal trim's gleam. Pictures:

Saturday 7 January 2012

Terrain Extravaganza: silos, 5 feet of barbed wire, ruins, an Alien Thingy and a Rocket to the Moon!

First, the exercise programme is going well. I am certain of this because of the soreness in forearms, biceps, chest and my back (upper and lower)! Second, I have also been hard at work on scenery, as the title suggests. The barbed wire (both the 2' by 3" piece and the four previous 6" by 3" pieces) had a black undercoat. Then I brushed silver messily over the wire before painting the staves (matchsticks) Dheneb Stone. I wasn't too worried about tidiness here because of the next stage: painting the bases dark brown. Again, because this is a muddy battlefield, I wasn't too worried about getting dark brown paint on the wood or the wire. The next stage will be to apply some weathering powders to the whole, glue on some little fake leaves from Antenociti, and then gloss varnish the lot. It's going to look good. I'll end up with a vast amount of barbed wire coverage after this. I already have a load of 3" squares and 3" by 6" oblongs sufficient to cover 39", I think, so with the completion of these four feet and the extra 12" by 3" piece beside me awaiting sand and glue, I'll be able to deploy a truly frightful mess of the stuff, in quantities both small and vast!

Next, the silos are coming along nicely. The only problem is that I keep rushing from one to another to yet another to try out a different style or colour! The first has had a red undercoat, and is in the process of being weathered to look like corroded bronze. It's very much a WIP, that look. Second, a tower of cream has been hit with lots of dirt to make it look very grubby and unkempt. Number three had a yellow primer undercoat, then some green car paint and a gloss on it. Yellow is poking out around the crevices, which will, I hope, enhance the look of the rust it will receive. Finally, the Pringles tube looks the most unusual. I had had enough of dirt, so decided to make this one all pretty. So after a glossy black undercoat (and varnish), I gave her a scarlet stripe and three purple stripes, then a lot of gold trim. Perhaps she is holding the Emperor's personal Pringle stores. The purple looks a bit wonky in these pictures for two reasons. The first stripe I mixed some Imperial Purple with Lightning (or was it Ice?) Blue, but I accidentally used Storm Blue for the other two. So that needs correcting. I was painting downstairs yesterday evening, watching the rabbit, and the light in there is dreadful!

I also have decided to quickly finish off a piece I began literally years ago. I had decided to make a Deathstrike and launcher - long before the new IG codex, this! The launcher eventually became a Stormblade, but the rocket looked too Orky to me, so has just sat on a table near the shower, prompting quizzical comments ever since. So I shall get her done and out of the way now! As well as these towering pieces of terrain I have a few smaller bits in hand. There's a pair of polystyrene pieces which will get a basic coat of sand and glue and paint. One is suitable for a walker to hide in and snipe at infantry while hull down, so to speak, and the other is a slightly exposed vantage point for infantry. As I mentioned earlier, I have another bit of barbed wire (12" by 3") waiting for some work, and as well as that a weird and wonderful piece of packing cardboard that came with a Christmas present from my dear brother. It's an unusual shape (well, collection of shapes), and the surface texture makes me want to paint it up as an organic ooze of ickiness - if you will permit me to be utterly vague. Erm, think the power station nest in Aliens. Finally, I went down to town yesterday and found myself a palette. It's the curse of W. H. Smith's: I find it very hard to go in there without leaving with a wargaming magazine and various items of stationery. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pics. I am off to do some more work.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...