Total Pageviews


'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.'

Monday, 28 May 2012

I am a seeker...

... after my beer mats that I bought in the late 1990s in order to play the Jolly Good Fun wargame in 42mm. So, after work, I dug through the dust, the cobwebs and general rubbish in my shed, looking for the beer mats. I didn't find them, but, curses, I found this:

Why ? Why now ? After the great Hawker Weather Build ! The article is from the January 2006 issue of Scale Aircraft Modelling, vol. 27, no: 11. Of course, the Hurricane that I built for the Hawker Weather Build (that really should have 'TM' after it now) was an Academy Mk IIc. Now, I did, of course, make some changes, notably the Volkes filter, but skimming the Scale Aircraft Modelling article, I discover other problems. But, wait! I am a kit basher, and proud of it!

My previous post led to a series of replies from His Grace and Springinsfeld about a small Nordic creature that I had not previously heard of - a Tomten. These fellows are protectors of farms and land in the North, but they also demand good manners from their hosts. I do not, as far as I know, have a Tomten as a garden protector, but I do have:

Pan as a boy. I bought this curly haired fellow from a shop in Eton, only yards from the River Thames, so he is well founded. There was quite a cult of the little woolly-legged chap in the late 19th and early 20th century. My favourite mentions of him are in Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (one of the funniest books ever written in the English language, and, strangely, the bedtime reading of the late Albanian Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha) ; and in The Wind in the Willows, where he keeps a watching eye on the river creatures, in a passage that, when I last read it, made the hair on my neck bristle. I fancy, too, that Pan appears in Robert Louis Stevenson's canoe memoir, though I can't quite remember. Actually, that book by RLS is as interesting as his more well-known Travels With Modestine.  I can feel myself rambling, but, then, that was, in part the purpose of the blog. So, I will say a little more to whet your appetite for Hoxha - a school master, trained in France, an aficiando of the clean shaven look (as a moustache wearing chap, I must protest, but that would have given me a one way ticket to the labour camp), someone who took his revolver to the Cabinet table (I could imagine our late, unlamented Premier, Gordon Brown, would have preferred to have done that), an out and out Stalinist, and a devotee of Norman Wisdom...

In my fondness for sort of garden gnomes, I also have this in my garden:

A very fine Green Man who guards the door into the garden. Much fantasy has been written about the Green Man, but the plain fact is that we know very little indeed about him, or what he represents.  With one exception, all the Green Men in England are in churches, but what they said to our forefathers we do not know. Interestingly, the common pub name of 'The Green Man' actually refers to Robin Hood, and, of course, his 'greenness' refers to paganism. But it is lost.

Finally, a photograph I took this morning before going to work, showing the full glory of 'Arthur Bell'. Note, too, my neighbour's mop.

P.S. on the painting table - the Bay of Pigs Cubans, and the Me Bf109 G-10.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The last ...

... of the Humbrol Authenticolours:

I feel as if I should play a brief lament, or sound a suitable bugle call. This little tin is around 28 years old. I opened it this evening for what was probably its last outing - for the lower surfaces of the Me Bf 109G-10. The paint was a bit separated, but with a good stir, it looked ok. But, sadly, on application, it turned out to have a very fine grittiness about it. I decided to battle on and use it as an undercoat, hoping that a bit of sanding will work wonders. So, farewell, old tin, you were the last of a famous breed.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


The great Hawker Weather Build has a lot to answer for. The old Hurricane madness has returned, fuelled today by the arrival of what looks like a very nice kit indeed:

I wasn't aware that Airfix produced a Sea Hurricane MkIIc until it appeared on another Hawker Weather Build blog, but I was very pleased when I received this kit. Altogether, it is a fine offering, with a high quality box, sharp, crisp mouldings, and three options illustrated on a separate, all-colour instruction sheet:

This is a RAF version for the Battle of the Imphal, one of those crucial, history changing events that are little known today. Fittingly, and unusually, I noticed that this kit is made in India, as opposed to China. Whichever manufacturer in India made it, they did a good job. However, I won't be using any of the three suggested finishes just yet, as I intend to make an Operation Torch Sea Hurricane in faux USAF markings.

Even if I managed kit perfection with the Hurricane, I wouldn't ever come remotely close to the perfection of this Dutch Iris that I photographed in my garden around 8 pm this evening, on the first warm, sunny day for a very long time:

What an amazing, intricate, complex flower, and in a blue that would need more than a Monet, or a Picasso to catch.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


... and a HG Wells related question.  Recent postings on two of my favourite blogs got me thinking (quiet at the back!). Firstly, today's post on His Grace's blog exhibited a new addition - a band from Wittenberg. This re-awakened an old enthusiasm of mine. Why do we not see more military bands on the tables of glory? They must surely be worth additional morale points, they most certainly offer the most marvellous uniforms, for the Eighteenth century wargamer in particular, but other periods too. Sadly, apart from the odd musician in random scales, my various armies boast only one band:

A small Confederate band in 15mm (so, small in both senses) plays stirring music while their comrades from a Zouave regiment march past. The Band Master has realised that an exalted one rides alongside, and has turned to salute:

Nice, old school look about him, even in 15mm - Minifigs, I think.  

Now, that brings me to the second inspirational set of postings, over on Funny Little Wars - Garden Campaigns, where the Padre has recently provided an after battle report on an American Civil War/War of the States action. As readers of this blog will know, I have a Funny Little Wars 'Army Black' in the making, conscripted from Armies in Plastic's value for money 54mm figures, with a few, much more expensive Tradition 54mm toy soldiers added to the pointy headed mix. The combination of FLW and the ACW set me to parading some of my ACW toy soldier style figures that I had collected a good few years back for an earlier attempt at H G Wells' inspired gaming. Here are some of the chaps. First, the Blue Bellies:

Note the Iron Brigade in reserve in the far background.

And, the Rebs. First some colours:

Good Lord, what is Scotland's flag doing there! (I wonder when the National Museums of Scotland will run an exhibition about the very deep, formative ties between Scotland and the southern states? Religion, flags, morality, bigotry, self-reliance, violence... Odd how the SNP don't make more of it). And Johnny Reb's firing line:

While, below, the famed Cavaliers of the South ride through an abandoned Blue Belly gun line. (I say, Cuba has got into the picture again!).

Now the point about this never-completed project is that these marvellous toy soldier figures (which were a joy to paint) are in 42mm, not 54mm. At the time (about 10-12 years ago) I understood that the figures that H G famously used and photographed were, in modern usage, in 42mm. So, my question is, were the original H G Wells' chaps in 42mm or 54mm ?

The second question (which I have just remembered) is does anyone else remember, or, indeed, have a copy of, the wargames magazine that the revived H G Wells in 42mm article was in ? It was either Miniature Wargames or Wargames Illustrated, probably from the late '90s, and involved beer mats and wine corks.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Slow progress

Slow progress indeed. I still haven't found time to properly familiarise myself with The War of 1812; my 1961 Cubans to be have now been PVA'd, but no more than that; the proposed Cuba 1898 game using Rough Riders! is still on hold; and even my Me Bf109 G-10 waits, for various gruns and graus from Xtracrylics. However, I did manage to do a little more on the odd bits of armour on my painting table tonight:

The Pz I and the SdKfz 222 are destined to take on my 28mm Home Guard, while the M41 Walker Bulldog waits for the beaches of Cuba. They are all done except for the pigment attack - note the MIG daleks hovering in the background. Speaking of daleks, I discovered today that my wife is related to David Tennant, the Dr Who before the current one, I think. This might explain both her brother (a famous sci-fi writer) and our son - who lives on another planet (the same one that the Soup Dragon lives on, I think). Mind you, so do most people in their 20s. Odd. All round.

Back to earth, it rains still here in West Mercia, but that, at least, allows this plant to show off:

It is Lady's Mantle, and, as you can see, catches drops of rain, like diamonds, on its leaves. In previous ages, it was believed that these rain drops from the plant had magical qualities. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cuba Libre

The diurnals have been getting in the way of toy soldierly things. Looking around the blogs, this is, perhaps not surprisingly, typical of our life and times (and 'demographic', to use an ugly phrase). But, it may be that one of the impetuses (have I got the plural form correct?) behind the hobby is the need to find little spaces to escape into, and that, if we had less work, less of the bother of eating, washing, shopping, cleaning, familying etc, then we might, paradoxically, have even less time for the little bits of plastic, white metal and resin. Who knows? Anyway, on the noble men in 20mm front, all I have managed since my last post is to base the Imex figures for my Bay of Pigs project:

Bases are notepad card backing, 15mm x 20mm, for no other reason than I prefer single basing for moderns. Once I have PVA'd the figures, I will assign them to one side or the other - that is the Free Cuba, or the Cuba Free side -undercoat, then crack on with the 'duck hunter' camouflage, or the green drill colours. I think this might be quite an interesting project. I have Alejandro de Quesada's marvellously, and understandably, partisan Osprey, The Bay of Pigs; Cuba 1961, and, somewhere in the loft, a number of books I got through the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, equally partisan, but from the other side - the Fidelistas. We will, in all probability, see some kind of awful denouement following the death of Fidel (why do we have to call the fellow by his Christian name?), even given that Raoul Castro is supposed to be in the driving seat. The whole Cuba business is a bit silly on one level, with the USA and its daft sanctions (yet happy to see the entire world economy propped up by that well-known bastion of  parliamentary democracy, the People's Republic of China) on one side, and petty (but vicious) persecutions on the other. Let us hope that when the time comes, there is a slow drift to a new state of being in Cuba, not some horrid blood-letting, or the sort of  oligarchic robbery that characterised the end of the lunacy of the USSR.

Away from the little men, the Me Bf109 G-10 is now largely built, and primed:

It will eventually joined the ranks of my Italian collection.

A footnote: I think there is something wrong with the Blogger thingy, I have notifications of comments, but they haven't appeared on the blog itself - so, I'm not being impolite, it's just the blog gremlin.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Vive le Roi!

God Save the King! The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 approaches, and I began to realise that although I might, at a push, finish my British and Canadian forces in 20mm, I most certainly would not manage to field an army from the aggressor nation - the late rebel territories, masquerading as the 'United States of America'. So, deciding that I could not let this anniversary go unplayed, I ordered this most interesting box from Boardgame Guru:

It was delivered to my office this morning (I only ordered on Friday), and great was the temptation to dive in - I manfully waited until returning home (at 8.15pm), only to have to go to secure my allotment hut which had been broken into yet again (what is it with these scally wags? Why do they wish to purloin my broken tools, collapsible seats, balls of tangled string, and empty bags that once contained chicken s**t?). Following that, a large bag of rhubarb demanded that I chop and stew it, and, in between, my grandson paid a visit, for which, much thanks. So, I have only glanced at 1812; the Invasion of Canada. But, it boasts a very nice board:

featuring the Great Lakes and the border areas. Aaaah, the Great Lakes! They have the same resonance with me as the Panama Canal had with the unforgettable cafe owner in Quai des Brumes. I am an enthusiast for the Canadian canoe, and paddling along the placid rivers of England I imagine myself a voyageur, singing the Song of the Paddle. To Canada we owe more than we suspect, or remember. 

And here, to whet my appetite further, the playing pieces:

On another note, I confess that the great Hawker Weather Build has set off the kit-bashing fever (aircraft strain) once more - a sort of plastic malaria. So, on the stocks, a 1:72 Me Bf109 G-10:

Sunday, 13 May 2012


is, they say, the sincerest form of flattery. Hence, the Italian copy of the Daimler Dingo, which I have now finished, in 28mm. I've used the Mig pigments again, and I still think they are a very good addition, even for wargames models:

Although the Lince was intended to fulfil the same role as the Dingo, i.e. reconnaissance, circumstances dictated that it largely saw service in the counter-insurgency role, fighting the various Partisan groups (Red, White, and Green) in Northern Italy especially in 1944 and early 1945. I have enough 28mm RSI troops, plus some earlier period Italians that will still pass muster, to put some of the 250,000 volunteers for the Italian Social Republic who served in the anti-Partisan Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana (GNR) and the Brigate Nere (BN) into the field/onto the table. Of course, many more served in other arms of the RSI's forces - in the new army (escaping the viciously vengeful Germans was a strong incentive here), the largely volunteer air force, and 'The Black Prince's' Decima MAS, which was a very effective private army. On the Partisan side I have much fewer figures (most unpainted), but that will do, as it wasn't until the end of April 1945 that Partisan numbers reached 250-300,000, compared with 50,000 only three months earlier. 

We can be glad that the UK never suffered the sort of fratricidal horrors that Italy did - truly, 'there but for the Grace of God..' 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Hosta Heaven

Finally, a Saturday without rain. A chance to sit in my little corner of England and be glad. As the Great War ditty/bit of verse had it:

          Two things have altered not since the world began,
          The beauty of the wild green earth, and the bravery of man.

Of course, we need to add 'woman' into that, and my back garden is hardly 'wild', but it is a bit of green. Today the sun shone on my potted hostas:

Hostas, as any gardener at any level knows, are big, juicy, slug and snail food plants. These (almost) pristine examples are like this because a) it is early in the year, b) slug-death pellets lurk, and c) I STAB ANY SLUG I FIND NEAR THEM!!! I love hostas, there is no end to the varieties available (and I await Springinsfeld's identification of the varieties I have above - having forgotten their names myself). They also remind me of my maternal grandfather, who was born in 1880, was a 100% respectable working class Victorian in thought and deed, and moved from keeping birds and dogs to creating a beautiful garden in the aftermath of the Great War, which he served in as an infantryman. He was a hosta man, and they remind me of my early childhood.  The good men do live after them. 

Funnily enough, I have resisted adding to my collection of hostas, and, since finishing my Hawker Weather Build Hurricane, I have been resisting ordering more Hurricanes. I tried to get a clearer photo of the MkIIc Trop this morning, but, as you can see below, I wasn't too successful:

The IIc to the left of  O-P is a night intruder version, piloted by a Czech who flew with the RAF. Even the model looks sinister, and I am sure that plenty of returning Luftwaffe bomber crews found out that the real thing was even moreso.

I must stop all this aeronautical stuff, and return to the toy soldierly and wargaming theme. On the painting table this evening is the Lince in 28mm, still with plenty of work needed, and posed here with some now out of production RSI troops - for more on that see my Military Illustrated article, 'Defending Mussolini', in the right hand panel here.

Finally,  a quotation from a story I read last night:

'Though he had both esteem and admiration for the sensibility of the human race, he had little respect for their intelligence: man has always found it easier to sacrifice his life than to learn the multiplication table'.

From one of the Ashenden short stories - 'Mr Harrington's Washing' - by W. Somerset Maugham. If you like carefully crafted, elegant prose, and rather realistic spy stories set during the Great War, then the Ashenden stories might do.

Thursday, 10 May 2012


At last, panting and wheezing behind the Kiwis, my Hawker Weather Build is complete. A few, rather poorly lit, shots of the Hurricane IIc Trop as it now looks after chipping, a bit of wear and tear, and running wash into some of the main panel lines, all topped off with some acrylic matt varnish:

As I've said before, the harsh, critical light thrown on a build by the camera just adds to my admiration for the skill and patience of the modellers that grace the pages of the hobby press.

I'm rather a fan of the Hurricane, so the 94 Squadron IIc Trop will go onto the shelf with others from the same stable; for example a Portuguese Hurricane IIc: 

I can't remember what kit the Portuguese IIc is, but it wasn't an Academy kit, and the decals were aftermarket. The Hurricane MkI below is an Airfix, with a few additions: 

The main issue that needs to be addressed with this Airfix kit is that there is no cockpit floor, or wing insert, so having the undercarriage down necessitates the addition of wheel wells, some piping and other bits and pieces. The Romanian markings were taken from the old Matchbox Me Bf109E kit, with the addition of the tail number, and the two shades of yellow theatre markings. There should be a mascot of a St. George Mickey Mouse - but I decided that it represented Yellow 5 before the squadron cartoonist got to work.

Finally, all three together:

Many thanks indeed to PLASTIC WARRIORS for initiating the Hawker Weather Build - what a cracking idea, and a great way to make e-contact with like-minded kit bashers across the globe.

Model on!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


and difficulties. The end draws near, not, I hope in a Jim Morrison Doors' way, nor as in a Gotterdammerung type scenario, but, more prosaically,  the end of my Hawker Weather Build. But, true to form, little glitches set in today. Prior to applying the decals, the whole kit needed glossing, so I thought I would apply some acrylic gloss varnish. Lid off, good stir, brush in, splodge varnish on wing - aaaargh!! Silvery bits!! The varnish was contaminated. I suspect the dam' Fuzzy Wuzzies. Very rapid cleaning of wing, and recourse to 'Klear', which worked a treat. (Why didn't I just use 'Klear' in the first place!). While the shiny stuff was drying, I got out the very nice sheet of aftermarket decals by Sky:

I've used Sky decals before, and been very pleased with them. The Hurricane I've been aiming at was a 
Mk IIc Trop of 94 Squadron, RAF, Western Desert, late 1942, HL735, nicely illustrated in the Sky booklet that goes with the decal sheet. Er ... the sheet does not have the serial HL735. Uh? OK, no need to panic, the same squadron also included HL855 in the same finish, code O-P. So,  decided to go for that. The code  was on the sheet, although I'm not sure about the colour, but ... no HL855 !!! Dam' and blast! The annoying thing is that as far as I can tell all the other options are on the sheet, which is very full:

Note the nice US style wing and fuselage markings for Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Hurricanes in Operation Torch (the invasion of French North Africa). The idea there was that the French chappies wouldn't be so keen to shoot down US aircraft, as opposed to those of Perfidious Albion. That didn't really work (they might have used scent those blighters, but they weren't stupid), and FAA Hurricanes actually came off rather badly. 

Anyway, despite the difficulties, the Hurricane now looks like:

Tomorrow evening the weathering begins.

On the Cuban front, I'm hoping for a quick gluing session this evening, to turn the disjecta membra below

Into two mortar teams for the overmatched invasion force. Difficulties permitting.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Wings over the world's...

modelling tables. The great Hawker Weather Build continues apace, with some dam' nifty looking heavyweights from the Antipodes leading the field. Here in this sleepy corner of England, my Hurricane build is coming along slowly. I've got the main colours in place, with the disruptive pattern added using Xtracolor's RAF Dark Earth. This is the infamously smelly enamel, but it dries quickly (much more quickly than Humbrol matt enamel) and is a pretty authentic shade. Tonight's effort was limited to part masking of the canopy, followed by a bit of paint. The Hurricane canopy is fiendish - heavily framed; in fact, it is a wonder any pilot could see out of the thing. Anyway, it now looks like this:

I'll need a good few sessions to finish off all the tricky bits, but I'm hoping to be finished by the weekend.

Now, the mystery project. The latest comments came to the conclusion that it was Korea, though late. Given that the figures are, indeed, from Imex's Korean War range, this is entirely understandable. But, I can now announce .... ta da da da ... that it is The Bay of Pigs !!! 

The Imex figures are very nice, crisply moulded in a pretty inflexible plastic, and, I am very pleased to say, look absolutely fine next to the 1:87 M41. Crucially, I think they will look fine, given a paint job, as both sides in that short, but very vicious encounter. As for the tank, the Cubans, that is the invading Cubans, had five M41s, and they more than held their own against the Cuban, that is Fidelista Cuban, T34/85s. 

Talking of Cuba, the 1898 game has still to be played - work, and other mundane matters have put it back again. But, it will happen.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

In a Hurri?

Er, not really. These things can't be rushed, especially when using enamels. I had the basic kit bashed by yesterday, then gave it a priming with Humbrol mid-grey. By this morning it had dried and showed up flaws that I had missed, including a gap that had opened up between the two halves of the tailplane:

The gap is visible in the photograph above. It strikes me that photographing models really exposes them to a harsh, critical light, which makes me all the more impressed by some of the quite amazing aircraft models to be seen in the modelling magazines. I bought one yesterday, and read it in an admiring and despairing fashion. Although these super-modellers explain very carefully how they manage the various effects, I can never seem to replicate them. Bother! Still, that is why I class myself as a 'kit basher'. Anyway, there is enough stress in daily life without ruining one's hobby time.

Anyway, I filled the offending gap with super-glue dribelled in with a cocktail stick, gave it, and some other flaws a quick sand, then applied the main upper surface coat of Humbrol 225 Middle Stone. The first coat was straight from the tin, but the second coat was mixed with white and applied in a slightly uneven fashion. My reasoning here is that the model is to represent a Hurricane in the Western Desert, and I expect that being constantly blasted by sand, grit and a strong sun would very soon begin to strip colour from the aircraft. I was worried that I was overdoing it, but the photograph below hardly seems to show the patchiness:

If you click on the image to enlarge it, the effect is slightly more apparent.

All this flying stuff hasn't meant that I have forgotten the little men. You may remember the Roco Minitanks M41, well, the plastics to go with it turned up yesterday from the ever reliable online retailer 'Drum and Flag'. Tradgardmaster has had a go at identifying the nature of the project, but does anyone else have any more ideas now? Here are the fellows from their washing:

The evening has just passed into night here in West Mercia, and the male blackbird that is nesting with its mate in the privet hedge out in the front of my house said goodnight to anyone who was listening with a few bars of blackbird music. Sanity.