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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.'

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


... and soft fruit.

Well, I couldn't resist it. After much consideration, I decided that the new Imagi-war, 42mm project steam lorries were just too garish for the show. So I've given one of them the treatment, and now it looks much more utilitarian (than a brewery dray?), and more active service:

Actually, I think it looks rather noble - a bit like those London buses that saw their way to the Western Front in 1914/15. 

Not quite finished, as the barrels need a bit of matt varnish, and the lorry could do with a number, perhaps with a Cyrillic air.

Meanwhile, the allotment plot continues to produce, with soft fruit flowing into our tiny galley kitchen,

where it is turned into jam (more than enough for a year's supply) by my Western Isles' wife, who knows a thing or two about good jam.

Or, as our grandson said, admiringly, last year, 'Granny takes little things and turns them into jam'.

I might add that the soft fruit produces fine crops despite being somewhat neglected by me - amazingly forgiving. My soil time is more focused on the broad bean/dwarf French bean/cabbage/swedes/runner beans/potatoes/green leaves front. And all for a few pounds sterling a year.

Monday, 29 July 2013


... for Regt Nr. 1.

In the shape of one of Irregular's 'Really Useful Guns' in 42mm:

The barrel is glued for a bit of high angle fire support as I realised that I was thinking about the karst  (the rocky, limestone landscape that rises behind the old Imperial city of Trieste) while I was painting the gun (a Schneider-you-like) in good, toy soldier finish. 

In such a random fashion does the new imagi-war take shape. 

The second 42mm regiment is now based and primed, and will be in an opposing army finish. However, it will also be the case that the period nature of all the units will mean that they can fight for any side. 

Another random thought that I had regarding all this was W.E.Johns' Biggles Goes To War, which is an imagi-war from the 1930s (the book came out early in 1938) set somewhere in Mittel Europa. Biggles and crew (for the absolute best of reasons - a woman. Uh? Biggles ??) go for a bit of mercenary action. Oddly, they also found time for some adventures in Spain during the period. Biggles, presumably, had, by then, recovered from his Great War experiences which had led to his problems with whisky. I bet there are a few readers out there scratching their heads - Biggles ? Women ? Whisky ?  Actually, if you haven't read it, Victor Yeates' Winged Victory (1934) is probably the finest novel (read, semi-autobiography) of the air war, 1914-1918. Yeates was, coincidentally, a school boy chum of Henry Williamson who served right through the Great War in the trenches, and was the most prolific combatant novelist in English from that war. It's difficult to know where to start with Williamson, but if there ever was a driven, unhinged, tortured, sometimes brilliant, often dreadful, writer, it was Williamson. His experiences in the Great War entered into his very heart, soul, body, bones, and drove him to the edge. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is for his novel Tarka the Otter, and for being a lifelong supporter of Sir Oswald Mosley.

There have been requests (well, two), for a photo comparison of the 42s with the Matchbox steam lorries. So, here is one of the gunners with the Guinness steam lorry:

As you can see, not quite a match, but this is classic wargaming territory, so it looks ok to me.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

New 42s...

... Regiment Nr 1:

Irregular. A rather fine 'march attack' pose.

Generic. Imagi-war, late 19th Century - pre-1914 period. Somewhere Mittel Europa, or Balkans (no, no, not England in the early 21st century!)


This first rate artillery officer, in classic toy soldier pose.

Friday, 26 July 2013

'My goodness...

...My Guinness.'  Or, in this case, newly arrived ebay reinforcements for my new 42mm shiny soldiers project. I'm a good way to finishing the first infantry regiment, and have taken delivery of the next, and now they have some support services: 

I might dull down the brasswork, but I think I'll leave the finish - sort of impressed civilian kit.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

I have...

... seen the future, and it is 42mm. Well, the near future, here at the Hobbit bunker. In fact,

To the 42mm future, toy soldier style. 
The spirited officer above comes from Irregular Miniatures' Balkan Wars range, and he is now cleaned up, based and undercoated (in white), along with the 12 men of his regiment, in a rather fine 'march attack' pose. 

Although the figures are the first of two small armies I intend to create from the Balkan Wars range, I think I'm going to be pretty catholic when it comes to uniforms. And, of course, given that decision, I dug out a marvellous book that I think  have mentioned before:

Vanished Armies, by A E Haswell Miller, edited by John Mollo (all hail!), published by Shire, Oxford, 2009. The plates in Haswell's book are water colours drawn from life from just before 'the deluge' of 1914. A must.

Monday, 22 July 2013


...proving, again, that Ross Mac's 'A Rattle of Dice' rules are just the thing for the solo, ageing wargamer...

After their initial high dice throws, the Confederates began to throw low, and, worse, the Union artillery battery was on target far too often.

Firing from just outside the tree line, the noise awakened an Old World fellow, who, somehow, had found his way on to the table. Fortunately, the smell of Australian wine distracted him...

Conscious of the need to take hold all of the railroad by the end of move eight, the Union line put in a spirited attack. The New York Zouaves suffered badly, having to cross the front of an entrenched Confederate regiment, who were being poorly engaged by the fresh U S Zouave regiment.

Centres clash, and the Union prevail, although the Rebels would rally next move. In the far distance the Union right flank assault has seen off the infantry company protecting the rebel artillery.

The partial collapse of the Confederate centre (center?) left Old Gray Beard and his ADC fighting hand to hand with the remnants of the New York Zouaves ... and the Gray heroes saw them off!! Just goes to show what the Mexican War, the Old Testament, whisky, and a beard can do for a man.

The Confederate gunners eventually succumbed, but they took plenty of blue bellies with them.

And it was the end of move eight. Endstate. Heavy losses on both sides.

But the Confederates had held on, and the railroad, though threatened, was still under the Stars and Bars.

And, before I go:
God Save our new Prince !

Sunday, 21 July 2013

First blows...

... the Union line:

Through the woods in column, with the artillery battery making good progress down the high road. Then out into the sunlight, and manoeuvring into line for a volley or two then a charge, to take advantage of the weight of numbers.  But the Rebels are entrenched and waiting, and the first throw is: 

Followed by hits from the centre Rebel regiment, the Rebel artillery and the company accompanying it. Bad news for the boys in blue:

You can see why the 'empty battlefield' became the norm as the ACW drew on, and on...

Friday, 19 July 2013


... Readers of this blog will, of course, be more than familiar with the 1970s military vehicles and aircraft produced by the English firm, Matchbox. And, I guess, a good few of you will be just as familiar with the die cast vehicles that, originally, came in little boxes that were ... just like matchboxes. The British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph (a 'not quite sure how Tory a newspaper we are' newspaper) had a feature on the 60th birthday of Matchbox recently that is well worth a look at - the photos are here. The actual newspaper included a little about a fine chap in Northamptonshire (a 'gentleman's county') who has around 11,000 Matchbox vehicles. I don't have 11,000, but I do have most of the ones I was bought in the 1960s, and, this is the important bit, they are currently played with by my grandson. Here are a few of my childhood favourites that I picked out of the sandpit (old basin filled with sand) this evening:

No: 11, Taylor Jumbo Crane, and No: 6 Euclid dump truck. I loved these two, and I was actually able to see cranes just like No:11 driving down the Dock Road in Liverpool, where my father was manager of a dockside pub. You will notice that the hook is a bit distorted - by the baby teeth that no longer exist in my aged head!

A bit bigger than the original Matchbox size, a Matchbox King Size No:13 Ready-Mix Concrete truck. The windscreen is cracked, but the simple mechanism that turns the drum still works.

These toys are 50 years old, have been played with by three generations of children, and will probably make a fourth (and, God willing, I may live to see that).

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


.... ready for the Rattle of Dice.

The newly reinforced Army Blue, oh, ok, US Army, battle line:

7th New York Volunteer Zouaves on the left of the line; stretching into the distance are another Zouave regiment (NY Fire Guard ?), a battery of field artillery, and two regular regiments.

Another overview of the line. The balloon back chair on the right, incidentally, probably dates back to the 1870s - a few years after the conflict - and I sit on it to eat my breakfast!

But what is the objective? And who is waiting?

Army Gray, aka the Army of the Confederate States of America. Three regiments of foot, and a battery of 12 pdrs. Ready and waiting...

And the goal ? Control of the railroad. The US forces have eight moves to take the line that can be seen. This is going to be a hard fought one.

On the general theme, I caught a news item on the BBC website recently about two memorials to Britons that fought in the American Civil War/War Between the States that are due to be unveiled. Stupidly, I didn't take a note of where exactly, or when. Also, I have a confused memory (well, I was at work) that the figure for Britons in the war was 300,000 - can this be the case? Does any reader know?

On a more restful note, my shady, ragged, tree filled, rose scented garden is luxuriating in the heat, but those masters of harshness - cacti - are showing the rest up with this sort of display:

Stunning. High temperatures, little moisture, sun, and the flowers are amazing, weird, and to the English eye, alien. Mind you, as the bad man said (to paraphrase) in The Third Man, the Borgias gave us the Renaissance. And The Third Man has to be one of the finest films ever, with Orson Welles before his decline, screenplay by the personally nauseous GG, music by a Hungarian busker, and at a time of Europe's humbling. And the, of its time, Anglo-Americanism (Americo-Anglicanism?), with the naive, decent, child like cowboy Yank, supported by world weary, decent, established middle class officer, and loyal to death, decent British non-com. And it was true - the only books my 1940s/50s soldier father read were by Zane Grey. 'The Stars in Texas...' what are the words to the tune...?

Saturday, 13 July 2013


... Toy Soldier glory in gloss, and more rattlin' dice on the way.

I've finished the reinforcements for my 42mm ACW armies (see earlier posts), so another game of Rattling Dice is on the way. I'd ordered a regiment of Zouaves from Irregular Miniatures of York, then spent a good deal of time wondering how to paint them. They've ended up like this:

I decided on an imaginary uniform, thinking that it would do nicely for either side, and, indeed, for other real and imagined 19th Century tussles. So, I happily set to with blue, plus purple trimmings...

Yet, as I painted away, something began to stir in the muddy recesses of my brain. A quick check in Philip Haythornthwaite's book, and, yes, I was actually painting up a New York Volunteer Zouave unit! Oh, well, they look fine.

I also made an addition to the artillery of each side; very nice figures, combining a real toy soldier look with decently rendered uniforms:

And, finally, a couple of officers and colour bearers:

The dice will rattle soon...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


... has taken me to:

No, not the 1960s, but the City of Dortmund. An ancient city, but one that was broken and rebuilt, in fire and flame, three times in the modern period. First by economic restructuring, then by Allied aerial bombing, then, once more, by economic restructuring. So, instead of a permanent, industrial, coal and steel smog covering the city, now, as you can see above, there are blue skies.

I was only there for a few days, but between work commitments I was able to find, firstly, a decent toy and model shop, where, among the complicated, highly detailed modern 1:87s, I found this gem:

T54 in all its mass-produced splendour, in plastic, in 1:87. Now, of course, on seeing this little Minitanks machine I was riven with guilt - what had become of my old style Bay of Pigs project ?! I know that the Fidelistas didn't have T54s at the time, but it brought the BoP back to mind, and I decided there and then to stick to 'old style' in spirit as well as fact and deploy the T54 alongside the Minitanks JS3 that I already have. 

I was also able to spend several hours in a beautiful park - the Westfallen Park - where the marvellous Romantic planting (so different from the classical formality of French-influenced Continental gardens) made me feel pleased that my own tiny garden matched this Romanticism so well:

But that was not all, as there is also a small, but very pleasant Alpine corner in the Westfallen Park:

On returning home, I promptly ordered some Edelweiss (above) for my own garden.

And, plenty of stone troughs, of which, not being a rich man, I can only dream.

Hopefully, I will return to Dortmund.