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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.'

Monday, 30 June 2014

No place...

... like home.

I live about half a mile from the Collegiate Church of St. Mary's in Warwick. My allotment plot is around a quarter of a mile from the church. St. Mary's tower has a marvellous peal of bells, which ring out on Sundays and on Wednesday evenings (bell practice night). The tower also has a set of chimes which go with the church clock striking the hours, and include 'I vow to thee my country', and 'There's no place like home', both of which were popular songs during the Great War (was 'No place like home' an American tune?). I don't know for certain when the chimes were added, but I would guess in the years shortly after the Great War. Working on my allotment plot, the chimes can be heard clearly, and it is difficult not to think of all that happened a century ago. As usual with anything involving humanity, it was a tangled mess. It would have better been like this:

than what it was. But it wasn't. Sometimes these days, in my more facetious moments, I wonder if it might not have been better if the UK, France, and the rest, hadn't just said to the Kaiser, 'well, go on, have what you want, and we can avoid the horror of the next 70 years or so. After all, Germany will end up top dog anyway.'
On a more cheerful note, although I am usually late planting on my allotment plot, it gets there in the end, and this evening I picked my first broad beans of the year:

Just as cheerfully, yesterday, during a visit to the perfection that is Baddesley Clinton (the 'Baddes' was the Anglo-Saxon, the 'Clinton' the Norman usurper) I picked up this fine 'Shire' booklet from 1969:

I have a very small collection of Staffordshire figures, but, as yet, no pugilists - but they are on my 'wants' list!

Sunday, 29 June 2014


... well, sort of, in a random sort of way.

The Long March of the tin men continues, and I still have quite a few chappies in police blue, police green, khaki, green and khaki, and just in plain mufti, to shift. However, I thought I'd vary the task by extracting some armour from the incredible cabinet of Herr Doktor Front, which is beginning to take on aspects of the Tardis.  A variety of scales and makes, but all designed for the table top, not the competition table:

A conversion, foreground, involving the ancient Airfix Stug III, backed by, at left, a refurb on an Airfix Grant I made in the early 1970s, an Armourfast Pz III, and a tiny (Peter Pig?) CV35.

Armourfast based NZ ambulance conversion on the left, the refurb Grants, resin French armour from 1940 (I can't remember the make), and behind the Grants, an Esci Jagdtiger that I built long ago in 1985 - massive, and useless on the table top.

Different scales above, with a large Italian Social Republic Dingo take-off, captured M.13/40 (the Aussie's first armour), and a nice resin Polish tankette.

Lancias for 28mm, with the odd addition in the shape of upper engine armour and anti-grenade net (made out of a tea strainer).

Finally, kit that, had things gone badly for old Blighty, might have clashed. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014


... brain.

I suppose that somewhere out there is a toy soldier/wargamer/kit-basher who can, and does, focus on one thing for long periods of time. He has complete armies, in scale, for specific battles, and his hard earned roubles go only on books, magazines, guns, horse and foot (or armour and support) that are relevant to his chosen subject. That is not what it is like at the Hobbit Bunker. My current move of a large number of little tin men has highlighted that, but it has also re-ignited my desire to array some of them on the table top. Yet this morning I bought a copy of the current Scale Aviation Modeller International, and the butterflies took off. It contains a nice, straightforward review and build of Revell's Sea Hurricane Mk IIC in 1/72 by Clive Duckworth. He built his Sea Hurricane as an aircraft from HMS Striker, in a pretty standard finish. But it looks so nice that I was sent digging around in my heap of unbuilt kits to find:

The Airfix Sea Hurricane. I've had this for a while, with the intention of finishing it as a Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane which took part in 'Operation Torch'. The interesting thing being that the FAA aircraft wore U S markings (of a sort), in the vain hope that the Vichy French wouldn't fire on them. Uh? Of course, that was at a point in the war when the US government still recognised Vichy, and ignored de Gaulle.
Actually, one of the other things that brought on the butterfly effect is that over the last couple of days we've had heavy rain here in West Mercia, England. So I couldn't keep on carrying my little tin heroes out to my shed. However, my garden, which I have created as a sort of woodland garden, is benefiting from the rain:

Some happily drinking Japanese anenomes, which will begin flowering in a few weeks and go on into late September. Also euphorbia giganticus, which has been doing its Shrek's ears trick for a few months now. And Russet apples growing nicely.

Outside my back door, my favourite hostas, with ferns, a small oak tree, and an olive tree growing so slowly, so slowly.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Never ending...

... supply.

Or so it seems, as I decant more figures from the cabinet. Tonight's haul included:

Red coats! Come on, my brave lads! 'King George and Old England forever' (yes, I know that's the wrong war, but you get my drift).

And the oppo again. Actually, from a wargame figure painter's perspective, the American Revolution has a lot going for it - corking uniforms, rather cool campaign dress, reasonably small numbers required, and very little in the way of (expensive) cavalry.

Below, some Spencer Smiths painted up as Hesse-Cassel chaps:

And more SSMs, this time as British dragoons:

Surely, it can't take much longer...

Monday, 23 June 2014


... figures from Herr Doktor Front's cabinet...

Rocket patrol in 28mm


Rebels! Dam' Rebels. Also in 28mm.

Supposedly a Belgian Boy Scout, but just look at those psycho eyes!

Berdan's boys in 15mm.

A doomed White Guard in 20mm. But perhaps he made it to Paris, or Belgrade...

Chocolate box soldier from Slovakia.

54mm Askari - provenance unknown.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


... shiny! Literally.

The great re-barracking of the tin men continues. And today's column included these 100% Old School, Shiny, Imagi-nation, Seven Years War lite, types:

Mortar, with Revell SYW gunners.

 Field gun; Revell figures.

Heavier kit, with a mix of Spencer Smith and Revell figures.

Scratch built caisson.

Spencer Smith horse.

Saturday, 21 June 2014


... friends.

Ross Mac in a comment on my last post sympathised with my current task of moving hundreds of figures from one barracks to the next, saying how much fun it would be to handle figures that haven't been on the table top of glory for a while. And how right he was ! This morning, I moved another few hundred, and met up with many an old sweat in 28mm from the war in America.
Including these Perry figures:

Jaegers. And how fine they are, how fine! Animated to pefection. The only pity is that one can't really have too many of the splendid foresters in one's army.
But, there were also these favourites:

Loyal and true. And so forgotten in the Old Country. In fact, I wrote a letter only this past week objecting to some television 'historian' who claimed, in The Spectator magazine, that 'we', i.e., Britain, fought the American war all on our own ! Pah!!.


some 'Light Bobs' to lend a hand.

But not forgetting the opposition, sadly deluded, estranged from their King. But, we have forgiven them, for, as Bismarck realised, our common language would be a deciding factor in the history of the world. And, when, like ancient Rome, we are gone, and our cities and countryside inhabited by others, our tongue will survive for a while. Here and there, like the inheritors of old, small kings will try to maintain the old ways, embodied in our language. Our English.


All of this, of course, means that I will have to order some more of these fellows. Of course I don't have enough!

Friday, 20 June 2014



Well, first things first. I've added the Waterloo Italian Army figures to the various bits of Italian Western Desert kit. Unfortunately, although they are a reasonable scale match, being open-topped and open-sided, I was unable to fit the figures into the driving compartments of the trucks. The only way to manage that would have been to hack off the figures' legs - but that would have been too obvious. So, I went for an at rest, on overwatch type 'look'. See what you think:

On the plus side, this unit of Breda 20mm truck mounted artillery looks a lot loss forlorn and abandoned than before.

I wonder, does the Italian fondness for truck mounted artillery (something they pioneered in the Great War) mean that they were the first 'technicals', now so common in Africa and Iraq?

Now, the 'heavy lift' of this post's title. A good deal of my wargames stuff is now housed in the Hobbit Bunker-Shed (see previous posts about the 'Jotul' stove), but I have a large, heavy, glass-fronted Ikea cabinet that contains several hundred figures, some tanks, houses, and books, rulesets etc in the sole downstairs room of my 1930s terrace house (we live small in Old England, crowded as we are). Recently, I had an Anglo-Canadian guest here, from Windsor, Ontario. She was surprised by both the tiny size of my house and its monetary value, around £200,000. She lives in a large, century-old Canadian house worth around Can$70,000. Canada = big country, small population, big house, low price. Sounds good to me! The Ikea wargames cabinet is slowly subsiding, as a floor joist has given way. So, it and all the figures will have to be moved to the Hobbit Bunker-Shed. It may take some time. The first move began his evening:

East Africa. German fellows, auxiliaries/volunteers, seamen from the SMS Konigsberg, and the famous askari.
Also some of the oppo. - British and South African infantry, lus Belgian Force Publique:

Quite a few of them:

But there's more where they came from:

I'm not looking forward to this...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Old school...

... charm. And nostalgia.

Just over a month ago I was visiting my aged mother (born in the year of the British General Strike) in Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway. This is a surprisingly remote area of South-West Scotland, jutting out (down?) into the Irish Sea, and not that far from the Isle of Man (a fine place, a place I hope to return to ). Wigtown is famous for being part of the Beltie belt, for its martyrs drowned at the stake (although that may well be a myth), and, since the 1990s as 'Scotland's National Book Town'. And a pretty damn remote one too! I suspect the internet has enabled the 'Book Town' to survive longer than it might have. Oddly (right, I'm rambling. It's the vino!). Oddly,  at the time that the whole book town idea was kicking off, I was a frequent contributor of fine short stories (if I may take a lead from Prime Minister Cameron and avoid bashfulness) to the Scottish Book Collector, whose editor, Jennie Renton, was a moving spirit behind the whole project. So, this small town (popln.: 1,000) boasts a rather large number of second hand bookshops. And a fine plant nursery. So, as I fulfill my filial duties, I can also inhale the fine, dusty odours of old books, and peer at noble plants within the confines of an 18th Century walled garden. And, a month ago, my book haul was full of old school charm, including:

Oh, the delight! Do you see the fine line drawing, and the price - 2/6d, a half crown ! A half crown! I have waxed lyrical before about that noble and useful coin of the realm, finer even than the tanner or the thrupenny bit. Joy. Sadness. Days that are past. Anyway, it is a digest sized Ian Allen book, nicely illustrated with pretty clear photographs and sharp, succinct text. Also:

the back cover has a nice 'Keil Kraft' advert. Every summer as a boy I used to buy one or two balsa kit aircraft (rubber band powered) and carefully build them before flying them from the top of an old sandstone quarry near my home. Nose dives were pretty common, but then I had the pleasure of using offcuts of balsa to repair the damage before returning to the quarry. I shall visit the quarry once more, and the hill where it is, before I die (D.V.).

Aircraft of World War 1 also has a section on'Lighter-than-air machines'. It is concise, but nicely illustrated, and took me back to when my son was a nipper and we made reasonably frequent trips to the old RNAS (?) airship station at East Fortune, which is now the major Scottish air museum.

Of course, all this stringbag type stuff means I have to:

Glue something old.

Monday, 9 June 2014


... sounds nasty. But then, we also have Europhobia. Not to mention the madness of humanity (I can feel the appeal of the bells as I get older).

Anyway, more wit and wisdom, or rot and drivel, from the pen/keyboard of Herr Doktor Alf R Ont can be found here

It's got a, sort of, Very British Civil War flavour about it: