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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.'

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


.... racing cars, speedboats, dirt tracks, Speedway, midget car racing, rallying...

.....Hitler, the Right Club, British Union, the ultra-right underground in London and Dublin, the IRA, Castro, Vietnam, What's My Line, Sunset Boulevard...

YES! The Long-Awaited (well, here anyway), ALL NEW Biography of

by Al Front (aka Dr Stephen M. Cullen)
Paperback, 277 pages, illustrated

Fanatical Fay Taylour
Her sporting & political life at speed, 1904-1983

Fay Taylour was the most successful woman motor sports champion yet. Feted as ‘The World’s Wonder Girl’, and ‘Flying Fay Taylour’, she was a household name in Britain, Australia and New Zealand in the late 1920s, when she beat the male stars of the motorcycle speedway track. She was so successful that the British motorcycle governing body banned women from competing in speedway. Taylour moved to car racing, competing around the world, living a fast, and adrenaline-filled life. At the outbreak of war, in 1939, Taylour found a new outlet for her energies, joining the fascist anti-war campaign. She quickly became embroiled in the clandestine world of ultra-right wing politics, both in London and Dublin. Arrested and imprisoned in Holloway, then on the Isle of Man, Taylour was regarded by the British authorities as one of their most dangerous pro-German prisoners. Released after three years, she moved to Ireland and continued her political activism. In the post-war period, she rebuilt her racing career in the USA, before she was banned from the country for her politics. That banning led to more racing around the world before she returned to the USA to finally retire from the track. This is the story of this remarkable, but disturbing and fanatical woman.
Buy it while stocks last...
£5.50 inc P&P in the UK
£8.50 international

CLICK HERE to buy:

Sunday, 15 March 2015


... and small worlds!

At the bottom of this webpage is a small list of my most favoured blogs by fellow enthusiasts for the miniature world. One of the enthusiasts is M S Foy, who has very kindly posted a marvellous photo of a Crosville double-decker bus of the type once driven by my late father from Crosville's now long-gone depot in West Kirby, on the Wirral. The fact that M S Foy (and his late cousin) was a bus aficianado in his youth, and toured the depots of Liverpool and the North-West of England is, for me, of 'it's a small world' interest, given that I was born in Liverpool (as were most of my forbears back to 1832), and, through my father's heroic bus driving adventures (more on this later) was also bus-friendly. But, when I saw that the bus model represents one that ran from Huyton, I was struck by small world syndrome of a greater potency, as that was where my father first ran a pub (as an ex-soldier should). But it became even more small worldish when the next bus (coach) on display represents one for North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland, where my parents retired to and spent 20 years. But this was not enough small worldism, because the next bus is an Edinburgh no:16 to Oxgangs! Wait! For I spent four years as an undergraduate at Edinburgh University, then, a decade later six years as a cleaner and Open University tutor in Edinburgh, and spent many an hour on the fine, maroon chariots of Edinburgh.

So, in thanks, here a couple of coaches from my not-really-a-collection of public transport:

Finally, a tale of heroic bus driving...

One last run of the night - the midnight bus - my father and his conductor decided to take the empty double-decker back to the depot by a quick route, by-passing various stops so that they could knock-off work early. Hurtling through the empty streets, my father took a wrong turning and ran into a bridge that was a bit too low for the bus. He reversed, the conductor ran upstairs, and found that not only was the top deck caved in at the front, but there was a passenger up there, unhurt, but somewhat surprised. They drove her right back to her house, then parked the bus neatly at the depot. The next day when my father and the conductor turned up for work, the depot manager was hopping around, shouting, 'What have you done to the bus?!'. Being an old soldier, a Kingo, and a Scouser, my father feigned astonishment, and then exclaimed, 'See ! How many times have I said it? This depot's wide open, it's got no security! What do you expect? It'll be the local lads!'. And he got away with it. That was long, long ago. Crosville is no more, my father is no more, the depot is gone, and the bus long scrapped. But don't try it at home, children. There's CCTV now.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A famous name...

... the Glengarry Light Infantry.

Recruited from Upper and Lower Canada and New Brunswick, and engaged in many actions throughout the War of 1812, only to be disbanded in June 1816.  And I knew I had started a 20mm unit of them in the past. After a good root around, I found a rather dusty open box of them, with the beginnings of a paint job:

I'm not sure of the manufacturer (possibly 'Hat'), and, of course, they are meant to be British Peninsular light Bobs. The main difference is that although the Canadians were uniformed like the 95th, they were not (according to Rene Chartrand) issued with rifles, but muskets, to which they added sights. That means that the little fellows are a bit short in the musket, but I can live with that. And they are nicely posed too:

Very dark at the moment as they only have undercoat and base green, but you can see the nice light Bob poses. As for the Yanks, well they were undercoated this evening, but will wait their turn behind the Glengarry fellows.

Here in Old England, the signs of Spring are here, and I took this photograph of primroses in my little garden this morning, before heading to work:

A marvellously tough plant, the primrose. These two clumps have been bright with their pale yellow flowers for weeks now, but were soaking up the bright, cold, sunlight this morning.  Apparently, the primrose was the favourite flower of the famous Imperialist, UK Prime Minister, and favourite of Queen Victoria, Benjamin Disraeli. As a result, when a new Conservative society was founded in the 1880s, it took the primrose as its symbol and name, the Primrose League. Within a decade it had over a million members, and an elaborate structure, with different grades of membership wearing different primrose badges, like this one:

In fact, the Primrose League wasn't finally disbanded until 2004, yet it is now another once famous name that is forgotten.

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Yanks...

... are coming!

Which immediately raises the point, were citizens of the USA called 'Yanks' in 1812? Perhaps a reader could enlighten me.  Anyway, a quick trip to the Royal Mail sorting office after work brought me two packets of little plastic men, who will masquerade as 1812 invaders:

I do like 'Hat' figures, and even the 'Hat' boxes, characterised by very neat packaging and good illustrations. If one was inclined to paint 'Hat's' Waterloo Dutch as, well, Waterloo Dutch, then the box top art would do nicely. But mine will become Americans.

The revival of this War of 1812 in 20mm plastic sent me scurrying to the Hobbit bunker to look out two other boxes of figures that I bought when I started on this project a few years ago. These are:

Some very nicely sculptured dragoons in a rather hard plastic (good, no flaking and no white glue needed as a primer). These will become the 19th Light Dragoons - the only British cavalry in North America in 1812. Finally, some guns:

A too-big, flimsy box (and contrast with 'Hat'), containing four guns and crew, but no horses, limbers etc.

Excellent ! On with the project!!

But, wait, do I really have to paint all this:

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Old Campaigns...

... unfinished projects...

and the wargamer's disease, the butterfly or moth-ish mind.

About three-four years ago, I was bitten by the War of 1812 bug. A smallish bug, in 20mm and plastics too, so I thought it would be an easy one to deal with. It had the advantages of being cheap (the plastic), do-able (relatively small numbers of men involved for the period), and interesting. I did manage to build up a reasonable force of British and Canadians (or 'British North American', depending on taste, language etc). But then the moth went into hibernation, like a yellow under wing. One of the small problems was that I couldn't find figures that would do for the Yanks. I wanted something more than a paintjob on British figures. Anyway, what I did amass included:

Upper Canada Militia.

And, below, some more of the same, but more uniformly turned out:

And now, like the yellow under wing after winter, the project has fluttered to life, thanks to a post on Herr Kinch's blog, involving a 'plucky little Belgian' in 20mm plastic.

So, the Yankee invader is on his way (he would have been here today, only I was out when the accursed postman turned up!), and the British and Candians are fifing famous tunes of glory:

While their serjeants plot new and old tricks:

Monday, 2 March 2015


... IIIJ, Matchbox...

A nice, straightforward, relaxing kit that still looks just fine for the tabletop:

Above: nearly finished, just markings, tyres and wash needed.

Finished, and ready for the sound of dice rolling. As you can see, I didn't go for a Hungarian PzIIIJ in the end, as the plain old dunkelgelb didn't really cut the mustard, and, more importantly, I have no intention of starting a 20mm Hungarian Army. So, it's just a generic German PzIIIJ. Which will always come in handy.


I knew I was jumping the gun the other day/post when I boasted that I had a game set up, all ready to go. It is highly likely that it isn't going anywhere (except back to barracks), as I've run out of foraged wood for my hobbit bunker stove, the temperature has dropped again, and, worse, there are builders due at the end of the week and they'll have to access my house via the bunker.  Oh, well, I set it up...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The world we have...

... lost.

Nearly two decades ago, I spent a couple of years reading all the Great War novels, memoirs, diaries etc that I could find published by British ex-combatants between November 1918 and August 1939. 'British' in that context included Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders etc who fought in British units. I read a total of 200 of these books by ex-combatants. By the end of the exercise (which resulted in a D.Phil.) I found that I had read myself out of my previous interest in Great War writing. My life also became less academic, as I returned to school mastering (it was 'school mastering', as the school was Eton), and I put that sort of reading on the back burner (switched off). However, over the last month, I've read three books by Great War veterans of the RNAS and the RFC:

I found The Spider Webb in the second hand books shack at Baddsley Clinton. Wind in the Wires jumped out at me from my local book shop chain, and I have had Arthur Gould Lee's No Parachute for 10 years. The latter was a Christmas present from my son, but in 2005 I still couldn't face a Great War book. Hallam's The Spider Webb was originally published in 1919, and parts of it were published during the Great War in The Times and Blackwood's Magazine. Grinnell-Milne's Wind in the Wires (a nod to Wind in the Willows (?), itself illustrated by the veteran, and MC winner, E.H. Shepherd) was published in 1937, while Arthur Gould Lee's memoir didn't appear until 1966, but it is essentially his wartime letters to his first wife, with some diary entries. One of the interesting contrasts between the books seems to me to reflect the time of writing. Hallam's book, which deals with flying boat patrols in the North Sea, includes some pretty lurid passages imagining the deaths of German U-boat crews that are bombed by RNAS flying boats. That pretty much reflects the general, contemporary, British, view of the U-boat (probably in both wars). Grinnell-Milne's book fascinates because a good deal of it covers the early days of the RFC when the corps was flying basically useless aircraft with inadequate training, meaning that pilots and observers were more likely to die training or in accidents than in action. Finally, Lee's account is what brought to mind the phrase 'the world we have lost'. The letters to his wife make one wonder how she could bear to open and read them. They are matter-of-fact, but the facts were frequently simply awful. As 1917 drew to a close, it is clear that Lee was really feeling the terrible strain (he was shot down three times by ground fire at Cambrai, including once when he ended up in the inverted wreck of his aircraft soaked in the contents of his fractured petrol tank). Yet much of the strain that he endures can only be felt in a 'reading between the lines' way. Nothing is said out loud in the sort of puffed up, overblown, self-pitying way that seems to characterise too much of our times. Here's Lee opening in a letter to his wife following another episode of being shot down by ground fire:  'I've come to the conclusion that I'm getting fed up with narrow squeaks. I had another one this afternoon, on this confounded trench-strafing'.  I wonder how we got from there to here? In four generations.