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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, 28 September 2012


... of war. In miniature. With some guest painting, by my son, of Perry Plastics:

With, below, a Warwick theme:

And, our glorious bowmen. Perhaps there should be a commemorative statue somewhere in England (or, indeed, Wales) for these decisive men?

And, continuing the medieval theme, some 'Red Falstaffs' in my garden:

While other apples, including the incomparable Egremont Russet, draw near their destiny:

And, at last, some sunshine to tempt the gentians out:

'Season of mellow fruitfulness...'

Monday, 24 September 2012

Revell Tiger...

... kit bashed - finally:

Out and about ...

with Panzer IIIN friend ...

and accompanying infantry, including some LMG support from a Hiwi (on the left).

While a Hummel gets re-supplied by an NSKK driver and RSO.

All those acronyms - I must be a geek!

Sunday, 23 September 2012


... and back again. I've been away for a week, for work. Sometimes work can be quite rewarding, and I am lucky in that respect, with work taking me this time to:

Cadiz, on the southernmost Atlantic coast of Spain. The city is the oldest in Europe, and sits on a long isthmus stretching out into the ocean, with the fabulous old town, where I was staying, hunched against the sea and the heat, and ... in the past, the English and the Dutch:

This is the landward entrance to the small star fort of Santa Catalina built in 1596 following an Anglo-Dutch raid on the port - oh, how my chest swelled with pride to read that my forbears had, yet again, made their mark. As an ex-RAF pilot friend of mine said, 'We have a great history of doing what we do best - drunken violence and piracy!'. And Cadiz has experienced plenty of that, as all English schoolboys (once) knew, it was at Cadiz (and Corunna) that Sir Francis Drake singed the King of Spain's beard - hurrah ! Doubtless the Catholic Spanish garrison had frequent recourse to their God in the fort's church, praying that the ghost of the Dragon would not return:

What struck me about the inside of the star fort was how familiar the buildings, like this church, looked and that they were familiar because of 'the movies' and their portrayal of Latin America, specifically Mexico. That was interesting; it was if my Anglo-centric view of the world, even of Europe, had been reinforced by the Anglo-centric view of the United States - a sort of layering of Northern Protestant perceptions. I would not have been surprised had the man with no name emerged from under those trees, chewing tobacco from Virginia, looking for greasy sombrero wearers to shoot.

Cadiz itself uses an image of this type of watch tower, which line the sea walls of the old city, on its tourist information. And neat little towers they are - just calling out for replication in 28mm.

The fort contained an elegantly laid out museum, which illustrated its own history and that of the region since the early modern period. The map below was another check to my perceptions of the Atlantic world:

This is, of course, 'The Americas' to the Spanish and the Portuguese, as it was to the pirates of England. But when most Britons think of 'America' we think, still, of the USA, though the map above was also important to British monarchs and politicians, even during the American Revolution, and later. Yet, the colonists further north have long superseded the indentured serfs, the prisoners, the pirates, slaves and sugar plantations in our imagination.

But Cadiz is very old indeed, as this large scale Phoenician warrior, who appears to have been toting a Sten gun at some point, shows. Interestingly, the Museum of Cadiz where this fellow lives has a great deal of information on the Phoenician city, and the Roman city of Gades, but only a map of the truncated town that existed under the Moor.

The old city of Cadiz today is elegant, clean, restrained and civilised. Its people are delicately featured, clearly have extensive family ties in the city, and are almost entirely Spanish - quiet, polite and friendly. This very welcome world is, of course, like much else in Europe, and the wider world, built on some dreadful historical foundations. Fortunately, I did not have to witness the Reconquest - war, massacre, and ethnic cleansing. Instead, I was able to enjoy the beauty that is Cadiz now. And, of course, the Andalusians have taken from their southern inheritance - pagan, Imperial Christian, and Muslim - some stylistic flourishes that add to their city: 

But, no mention of Spain on an English/British wargamer's blog could pass up:

A fellow who got around, and whose view of the uniformed 'plebs' still lives on in his old Tory Party.

But, as in too many countries, a vicious appetite threatens lives, happiness, and social order. Some of my work in England is connected to 'substance misuse'. And here in Cadiz, there were social workers saying (hopefully ? forlornly?), 'let's talk about drugs'...

Finally, my 'find' of the trip. Newly published, massively illustrated, an oral history of the lives of some of the 50,000 Spanish men and women who were...

So, a marvellous experience, and thanks to the hosts, from the University of Cadiz:

And, at home, in England, it rains, but this Alpine perfection shone in the early morning just before I left last week:

Thursday, 13 September 2012

I have returned..

... though I don't look as cool as 'Mac' in his shades.

A quotation: 'I merely marked it down in my mind as one of the many million things which I hope to do someday, if two or three million other things do not prevent me.' (Reginald Farrer, Among the Hills (London, 1911)).

This evening I managed to do a little - even if it was to struggle, stupidly, with the links of the Tiger tracks:

How I hate those tracks. I don't care if they are supposed to be more accurate, give me the old rubber band types any day!

Although I've had little time lately to do anything on the wargames and toy soldier front, the work (dining) table has managed to accrue various bits and pieces. Here we have the new dictator on the block:

Colonel Minotaur - the ultimate in strong men; move over Putin!

28mm Anglo-Saxons painted up many moons ago, and now in need of a bit of TLC:

And, a happy postal delivery yesterday, with all our favourites. Excellent piece on the 'oooh, shiny!' syndrome, and a nice, thoughtful article by Ross Mac on 'friction' in wargames:

And, for some reason, a wandering M13/40. I can't remember how or why he escaped his barracks:

But, stay! What is this newly delivered packet? 

Oooooh, shiny!!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Knights of old...

My grandson has taken a strong liking to visiting the amazing Beauchamp Chapel in the collegiate church of St. Mary's, Warwick. This is a part of the church which dates back to the fifteenth century and was, very happily, preserved from the Great Fire of Warwick - 'conflaone stupenda' - that burnt part of the church but allowed the building of the current tower by the good burghers of the town in 1704. For which, much thanks. The Beauchamp Chapel is, apparently, one of the finest medieval chapels in England, and contains marvellous effigies of the Beauchamps, in all their armoured finery - hence the little fellow's keenness. So, today, in our Saturday wanderings, we visited, then played in the old cloister gardens, bought a light sabre (cue discussion of knights past and future), and had a quick visit to a second hand bookshop in Smith Street (where the armourers of past ages used to work, outside the town walls). Happily, there was some new old stock, including:

An old Almark from 1976, with some useful uniform illustrations, especially of the Frenchies (an amusing irony, that the sons of liberty were so close to the most tyrannical, absolutist regime of its day), and a detailed order of battle. And it is always nice to be able to buy the books I couldn't afford back then. The second is one by Christopher Hibbert MC, a popular historian who could write readable English. His Mussolini, for example, is still a jolly good read, and quite beats struggling with the tedium of, say, Denis Mack Smith's biography of the dictator. So, I'm looking forward to Redcoats and Rebels, although, it should really be Redcoats, Greencoats and Rebels. Those noble Loyalists, founders of English-speaking Canada! Not to mention Ban:

Ban - historical victim of propaganda, which was itself simply the product of the fear that he instilled in the rebels. He needs a good biography. I have The Green Dragoon, but it is written in that curious 'he said, she said' style (popular in the 1950s) that is offputting, to say the least.

My other purchase, which I have accidentally sandwiched between two warship wargame pictures...

was this cracking volume from 1990:

It covers, as you see, the pre-Dreadnought period, with all its wondrous, often unique ships.

And all this reading for £11. Top banana!