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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Friday, 26 December 2014

I am your father...

... That is, indeed, the case, but it didn't stop my own Luke Skywalker from thrashing me at a festive game of Star Wars X-Wing:

We didn't use all the kit on display here, just two Imperial vessels (me) and one X-wing, piloted by the said ungrateful offspring. It occurred to me afterwards that I hadn't actually managed a shot at the wily ingalactic yoof. I think next time it will have to be something more sedate - Hammerin' Iron, perhaps.

While my ageing brain addled along in the wake of the dice, rules, tokens, and such like, I was, nonetheless, rather taken with the models themselves. They appear to be resin, and are pre-painted to a very nice standard.

I must return to my Germanic bathtub, and, following an afternoon spent in the shed, some rediscovered 'Army Black'.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Long time...

... no post.

Bad! Nearly two months since I posted. What an idle fellow. That brings to mind Jerome K. Jerome's Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, which I read around Christmas, 1986, if I remember correctly. As most readers (if there are any left) will know, JKJ is famous for being both the author of the still laugh out loud, Three Men in a Boat, and as the wargaming partner of H.G. Wells, he of the fertile imagination, unedited books, and proclivities of a goat. Expecting the light-hearted joy of Three Men, I remember being somewhat dismayed finding that Idle Thoughts was shot through with a wistful sadness, of time passing, of things lost, a sort of Englishman's Recherche du temps perdu, but without, fortunately, the Gallic trimmings. However, I waffle...

Although work and family have absorbed almost all my time recently, I have managed some desultory gluing and painting. Well, I struggled with Revell's ancient 1/72 Fokker EIII:

The sprue had this as being a product from 1981, but I'm pretty sure it's the same thing that I made in about 1968, only for it to crash and burn at the hands of my three year old brother. Anyway, it's an old bit of plastic, each piece nicely halo'd with a wafer of excess mould.  The fit is still reasonable, though, and only the slightest of filling was needed.

The fun bit, of course, is the amazing bird cage rigging, top and bottom. In my case, things weren't helped by thick fingers, poor eyesight, and the fact that I threw the instructions into the fire, forgetting that the rigging diagram was included. That's the problem with having an open fire, it brings out one's inner pyromaniac, but, by God, it's a life-affirming thing to have in one's hovel in the dark dampness of an English winter.

My job has taken me round the country of late, including to the absolutely first rate market town of Thirsk in North Yorkshire, and the great northern city of York. I knew York reasonably well as a young man, and what a place it is, with its city walls, stupendous cathedral (currently presided over by that good Christian and Anglophile, Archbishop Sentamu, the 97th Archbishop of York), the National Rail Museum, pubs galore, and history to touch by simply stretching out a hand. I realised how long it has been since I had visited York when I came across what was, to me, a new statue outside York Minster. It is of Constantine the Great, who was proclaimed Emperor in York in 306, and was erected in 1998 not far from where that proclamation was made.
But if all that, plus beer and steak and ale pie,  was not enough, my wanderings took me to a real, live model shop. A real one, with a door I could open, with customers and shop keeper, model aircraft, vehicles, railway stuff. A fantastic surprise - Monk Bar Model Shop. Of course, I had to buy something, so:

Valom's new Vickers Wellesley, cheaper, and more accurate, than Matchbox's long out of production version, which now trades for high prices on e-bay. And, this rare beast:

Known as the 'Bath Tub', with only 8mm of armour, the Germans nonetheless took it with them into Poland and later used it for security duties. A tiny model in 1/72, but next on my list of 'to makes'.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


photography, poor lighting, but a table top encounter nonetheless.

Pick up game, in a box:

Rules: Cordery out of Morschauser. Gridded battlefield, 8 x 8, 'Frontier/Modern wargames Rules'.

The opening scene: Bolsheviks in the distance, Whites nearest the camera. Twelve units each, Reds with a unit of armour, Whites with a unit of field artillery.

First shot! White artillery knocks out Red armour. What an opener!

Red commander had to be consoled with a jelly baby. See ! The Bolsheviks do eat babies !!

One of the built up areas becomes the focus of heavy fighting, with each side attempting to benefit from the points advantages to be gained from defending a built up zone. This focal point becomes a killing zone, with the fortunes of war in the Whites' favour.

Above: this blurred aerial photograph shows the Bolshevik command unit realising that the game is up - they only command an m/g unit. Shortly after the photgraph was taken, the Red machine gunners fell.

Endstate. The Whites hold the field, though sorely depleted.
I can't sign off this post without mentioning the jihadi Islamist terror attack in Ottawa. The murder of Cpl. Cirillo at Canada's National War Memorial was a foul attack not just on Canada but on the West as a whole. The only satisfaction to be gained is that it was the Serjeant at Arms, Kevin Vickers, who killed the terrorist. How fitting that someone charged with the defence of a Parliament - that core institution of democracy - should have carried out his duty so well. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014


Mao would have approved of this:

Karl Marx may also have approved of it, but I have no intention of entering into arcane debate about whether the 'younger Marx' would have done so more, or less, than the 'older Marx'. However, Marx's son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, would not. Some years ago my brother-in-law, Ken MacLeod, bought me a copy of Lafargue's opus magnus, The Right to be Lazy, and gave it to me with the comment that Lafargue seemed to have taken his own advice to heart and wrote nothing else but his little peon to idleness. I, on the other hand, have not been able to take the Froggie socialist's advice these past months, as in the new, fresh, globalised world of higher education, 'LABOUR IS GLORIOUS'. Well, actually, it's been more of a case that I have been kept from modelling/toy soldierly things by the first two thirds of the Petainist slogan, Travail, Famille, Patrie. Mind you, I suppose I was increasingly stressed as the United Kingdom hung, for a tense week or so, on the apparent abyss, while the Scots (or, at least, those of them in Scotland, if not in the UK), decided on how to vote with regard to the end, or the continuation, of the UK. Happily (from this blog's perspective) it was UK OK. But, on with the updates...

Firstly, I was able to paint up the latest unit for my Maltovia vs Lovitznia conflict. The new regiment, in French style, can be seen on manouevres:

It looks as if it's the end of a long, hard exercise for these chaps.

Secondly, after many a mishap, I finally managed to complete the Roden offering of the Albatros II:

I won't bore you with all the horrors associated with this kit bash, but to give you the flavour of things - having fixed the wings, I promptly dropped a rather heavy bottle of wash onto the thing, smashing three struts...

 But, all is complete, although I have put away another Albatros model that I had thought might make a twin.

Sunday, 17 August 2014


... and relics.

No, not a post about me, or any other middle-aged wargamer.

Instead; this evening I was walking along my favourite stretch of coastline here in Blighty. It's on the north Norfolk coast - Nelson country. Out from the village of Burnham Overy Staithe, the sea defences stretch as dykes towards the North Sea (the 'German Sea' as it was called for a while, until 1914), with salt marsh, grazing cattle, and an abundance and variety of birds unlike almost anywhere else in England. Given its geographic position, it will not surprise you to hear that the whole coast is littered with the wrecks and relics of Britain's 1940-41 defences. Pillboxes sink into the shingle and sand, everywhere the concrete and stainless steel of Spigot Mortar mounts, even the occasional Allan-Williams' turret survives, and last winter's storms revealed twisted barbed wire stakes. And, this evening, walking away from the sea and the grey-blue clouds, I came across this:

The tail fins of a mortar bomb.

Can any well-informed chap out there give me name, rank and number on this relic?

3" mortar bomb? Or something else?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


...Lovitznia....and the wanderings of a middle-aged duffer's mind.

Regular readers of this blog may remember the adventures, in 42mm, of the heroic Maj. Vlasov during the defence of Brnad, ancient border town in Maltovia. Inspired by Biggles, Algy, and Ginger, along with the 'Rattle of Dice' rule set, and old school shiny toy soldiery, the long struggle between those Mitteleuropa enemies continued at the end of the '13 campaigning season on the green felt table top. While on my recent trip of filial devotion, I bought a paperback copy of:

My boyhood copy (second hand in 1970, and, even then, missing its spine) is somewhere in my loft, and, in any case, who could resist the rather splendid tri-motor (SM81?) on the cover of this edition of W.E. Johns' account of the 1930s' clash of Lovitznia and Maltovia.
The upshot (appropriately enough) of this re-reading was a quick order to Irregular Miniatures of York for reinforcements in 42mm, but also the extraction of this kit from my stash:

No direct relation to the Maltovian business, but some to Biggles (Of The Camel Squadron etc), and more evidence of butterfly syndrome. So, this evening, my huge mitts struggled with this:

A nicely rendered engine, but as it is only 20mm in length, and composed of eight parts, you can imagine the Anglo-Saxon at the work bench...

Monday, 4 August 2014

Known Unto God...

'Looking back towards safety from the Auchonvilliers trenches, one daily saw a high crucifix at the end of the town, silvered and silhouetted in the sunset. Before we came away, this sad sculpture had fallen...'

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Sea Hurricane...

... end state.

Finally, I've finished the Airfix 1/72 Sea Hurricane IIc in Fleet Air Arm 'Operation Torch' finish. I strongly suspect that the serial number I've used (from the 'Sky' decal sheet) is incorrect, and I'm not sure that I am happy with my choice of greys. The finish should be 'dark sea grey' and 'extra dark sea grey', but, to my ageing eyes that combination looked like having too little contrast. Anyway, it is done:

Although the cockpit cover comes in two parts, as they are injection moulded they are too thick to position open, so my careful detailing of the cockpit sides, and the addition of the seat harness, is rather wasted. Oh well.

This past week I have been visiting my aged mother in Dumfries and Galloway - a fine county. As well as bathing in the Irish Sea with my grandson, I also visited the plentiful, but not always interesting, book shops of Wigtown. Despite limiting my purchases (it's the age of austerity, don't you know?), I picked up a very nice copy of this:

The question is, how long can I resist hunting down a kit of the He 112?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Aye, Aye..

... and Yee Haa!

It's hot and humid here in Mercia, Old England. Probably not as hot and humid as it gets in Dixieland, but my thoughts have turned to brown water table top warfare. So, this evening, I dug out these:

Balsa and card ironclads for the Confederate States, with:

one of Mr Pig's finest resin and metal miniatures, and:

a mix of balsa and Pig.

Along with two blockade runners.

I played a lot of RFCM 'Hammerin' Iron' in the past, version 1; but this time, I'll be trying out the Mk.II of that rule set. They do say 'a change is as good as a rest'. Well, they did say, in the days when  great aunts hovered on the edges of family groups.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Old School...

... real Old School...

Strangely, it seems that toy soldiers are primarily designed with small children in mind. An odd concept, I know, but there you are.  Happily, my grandson, aged 5, qualifies. And today, he had great fun with some of my toy soldiers from long, long ago, including these chaps:

Gunslingers! I suspect that I was at the very end of my Britain's purchases when I bought these from 'Haskins' in West Kirby. 'Haskins' was one of those small shops that seem to have gone now. I bought my Scout sheath knife there, aged 12 - that would, of course, be illegal now. Later, I also bought a nice 'Diana' air pistol - something that would also be illegal now. I also bought fireworks known as 'bangers' in England at 'Haskins', which me and a friend - Nell Hardiman (he was a boy, 'Nell' being a Scouse diminutive for Neil) happily threw around on Caldy Hill - a series of illegal acts now. What is this ??!! As well as all these engines of death, 'Haskins' sold sports kit and Airfix models and figures. A fine example of the petit bourgeoisie - killed off, almost, by globalisation. Nuts, as a famous American once said.

'Injuns'! Some of the figures above belonged to my little brother, now aged 49 and not in nearly as good condition as his 'Injuns'.
And this:

Oh, marvellous - Song of the Paddle! A really nice physical realisation of a fascinating period of history (unless one was a beaver, or a bear).
All of this was, today, courtesy of:

my grandson, who dug out the old toys and spent hours playing with them. Knights, Second World War chaps, 'Moderns' (i.e. Cold War), and, as the hero of all the various stories:

Luke Skywalker in 20mm, looking out over a new planet...

Sunday, 13 July 2014


... houses, and herbage.

Finally, the toy soldiers have completed the first stage of the re-barracking. This morning I took the last little tin chaps out to the Hobbit Bunker. A range of oddments, including:

Solid casts, given to me by a very old Danish lady; the figures had been her late husband's toys in the 1920s. The general opinion is that they are most likely to be by Heyde. I repainted a good number of their comrades, but these still await some attention at the repair depot.
And these, probably my favourite houses:

from Hovels for 25/28mm, and suitable for endless North European table top conflict.
Also some bits and pieces of herbage:

these being German flats for 30mm.
And a mix of scratch built for 25/28mm, and card for 20mm:


scratch built 28mm for SCW, or, when I hide the poster end here, Span-Am.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


... fugit.

Time waits for no man; time and tide etc etc...

A bit of nostalgia for me when, finding myself in the loft again (this time it was camping gear I was after), I came across these:

Three A4 pages of hand-written rules, illustrated by my then 7 year old son. Based on Featherstone's principles, these rules introduced my son to the idea of war gaming in a sensible (?) way. He progressed to other gaming (see here), but this is where he started, with 15mm ACW.
On other fronts, my allotment plot is beginning to look as it should:

From left to right, Jerusalem artichokes, borage, English marigolds (and a few Frenchies), nasturtium backed by rows of broad beans; further back a couple of golden raspberry bushes, and potatoes. And, out of camera sight, runner beans, dwarf French beans, courgettes, brambles, apples ... Aaah. Growth of the soil.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Hack, hack...

... chop, chop.

In theory, it is a straightforward process. Familiarise with instructions, carefully remove pieces from sprue, clean them up if necessary, dry fit, line up, dry fit check, line up again, glue, support and jig if necessary. And hey presto! It's a mess:

The above shows the Sea Hurricane pilot's seat after I was forced to hack the dam' thing off its mounting. Why ? Well, I originally glued it to the mounts with the seat back against the cockpit armour. That's what it looked like on the instructions, and the underside of the seat seemed to fit on the mountings best that way. Fine. Except that when I offered up the wings and the seat to the fuselage, the blessed thing wouldn't fit because the seat was too far back! Hence the 'hack, hack, chop, chop' ! I've been kit bashing for 46 years, on and off, and I still make these sort of mistakes!
So, little progress on the Sea Hurricane, which currently looks like this:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


... yarns.

I suspect that a fair number of wargamey, toy soldierly types are partial to the genre of fiction that goes best under the heading of 'Ripping Yarns'. I'm currently reading Andrew Martin's latest title in his excellent 'Jim Stringer' series of novels about the Yorkshire railway detective. Over nine adventures, Martin has done a clever thing with his hero, Jim Stringer. He's taken him from a disgraced footplate fireman, to railway detective in York, to temporary officer and gentleman during the Great War, and, thence, to ex-officer railway investigator. First in Mesopotamia, shortly after its change of hands from the Ottoman Empire to the British Empire, in Baghdad Railway Club, then, in the current adventure:

to post-First World War India, among the Anglo-Indian world of the railways (made most famous in fiction by Bhowani Junction, by John Masters, himself an Anglo-Indian). While reading Stringer's adventures this evening, I came to thinking about my liking for this sort of tale. I'm not entirely sure Night Train falls squarely into the Ripping Yarn category, but that class of book certainly entertains me. So, off the top of my head, I tried to think of my 'top ten' Ripping Yarns. Starting with:

1. Watkins, In the Blue Light of African Dreams - oh, glory: French Foreign Legion, ex-Great War Spads, American mercenary, an attempted crossing of the Atlantic....

2. R. L. Stevenson, Kidnapped! Perfect plotting, a thrilling tale that lives on.

3. Erskine Childers, Riddle of the Sands. Given an extra twist by the reader's knowledge that Childers himself lived a Ripping Yarn, which ended in front of an Irish government firing squad.

4. John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps. Tremendous! Who, after reading it, doesn't want to don an old tweed suit and take to the hills of Dumfries and Galloway! And, Buchan, like Childers, a Ripping Yarn sort of fellow himself - British intelligence officer and highly popular Governor of Canada.

5. W.E. Johns, Biggles Goes To War. Biggles and crew as mercenary pilots in the Balkans - biplanes, a beautiful woman, and straight lefts.

6. Any of the 'Mamur Zapt' series of novels by Michael Pearce. The hot, foetid streets of Cairo, Captain Gareth Owen, Head of the Secret Police, and his compelling, not to be crossed, mistress, Zeinab.

And there, I began to falter - my memory that is. So, good fellows, what else should be on this list?