Thursday, September 04, 2014

Eight for August

I have now added he grass which I had forgotten when I took these pictures!

So, in the end I did just get eight figures completed for August, even if I did have to finish them at midnight on Sunday 31st!  First off were another seven Afghans.  I now have just ten to do,  This batch includes some with swords and they all have their arms held as if they should be carrying shields which, interestingly, the Studio Miniatures figures have.  Did Artizan just forget to include shields?  I've just ordered a pack of Studio Miniatures Afghans to see how they compare in size.  The Sikh Wars figures I have are slim, more anatomically correct, Perry Miniatures in style but the Afghans look chunkier.  We'll see.

Lastly, I finished one of those non-unit figures that lurk around on the workbench for months.  A Black Scorpion pirate girl for my all female crew.  Anne Bonny from the new North Star range is also now well underway and I have undercoated Blackbeard's crew.  Next up will be the North West Frontier British, who I have now started, plus some more odd figures which are close to completion but I couldn't quite get done by the end of the month.

I couldn't finish them as I spent the weekend down in Cowes for the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes powerboat race.  I have been watching this since I was about eight, although it is a shadow of its former self with only just over a dozen competitors this year.  I remember the whole width of the Solent being taken up with a mass start in the seventies and eighties but this year the whole field could fit into the Royal Yacht Squadron haven.  Although it was nice to see the original Dry Martini, which won in 1974, competing again.

While walking along the front my son, Guy, said that there was a Lancaster about to fly over.  It wasn't a Lancaster, however, but a B17!  I've never seen one at all, I don't think, let alone one flying!  It was en route to the Bournemouth air show. It was the Sally-B which is based at Duxford, somewhere I really need to visit.   I only had time to grab a quick shot as it thundered overhead!  Impressive!  I always wanted to build the Airfix kit when I was younger but had never saved enough pocket money to be able to afford it!  Thanks to Airfix (or rather Roy Cross) I always think that they should be silver though!

Osborne Court

Just along from our house in Cowes is Osborne Court, a large Art Deco apartment building, constructed in 1938.  My father-in-law told me that it was paid for by the German government with the idea that it could serve as the German army headquarters when Britain was invaded.  I couldn't find this mentioned anywhere else but he is usually reliable on history and has been visiting Cowes since the mid-thirties himself.  An intriguing thought, anyway!

We haven't had a musical interlude here for a bit but there is a musical link to Cowes and Osborne Court in particular.  I am currently listening to a CD of music by the largely forgotten British composer Albert William Ketèlbey (1875-1959).  You might not think that you know any of the composer's work but the first few bars of In a Persian Garden should be very familiar.

Rookstone, the house of Albert Ketèlbey, Egypt Hill, Cowes

Ironically, Ketèlbey was tremendously famous in his day and was heralded as Britain's greatest living composer in 1929, as his work was performed more than any other British composer that year.  He is also believed to have been Britain's first millionaire composer.  Yet by the time of his death in 1959 he was almost forgotten; his melodic, programme music becoming very unfashionable.  Now he is rehabilitated somewhat, with compositions such as In a Monastery Garden, In a Persian Market and Bells Across the Meadows being performed regularly and receiving airtime on radio.  In fact, the latter composition was actually banned from radio broadcast (the first recording banned by the BBC!) during WW2 in case people thought that the bell chimes in the piece were the warning for a German invasion!

Born in Birmingham, the son of an engineer, he began piano lessons at the age of eight and started his formal studies at the age of eleven at the School of Music of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.  At the age of eleven he performed his own piano sonata in Worcester Town hall and greatly impressed Sir Edward Elgar, who was in the audience. At thirteen he won the Queen Victoria scholarship to London's Trinity College of Music, beating one Gustav Holst into second place. At Trinity he won numerous prizes and became a very young professor there; affecting a tail coat to make himself look older.  His first major compositions followed at the age of eighteen and by the age of twenty his Piano Concerto in G Minor won the Tallis Gold Medal for Counterpoint.

He met his first wife, Charlotte Siegenberg, while acting as musical director of the Vaudeville Theatre, where he started work at the age of 22.  For over forty five years his compostions made him "The King of Light Music" and in 1926 sales of the sheet music for In a Monastery Garden, the composition that made him a household name in 1915, passed one million copies.  He composed a lot for the pre-sound cinema and was also involved in the early days of gramophone recording.  His wife died of pneumonia in 1947 and he moved out of London to the south coast to recover from a nervous breakdown. There he met  and eventually married Mabel Pritchett, then the manageress of a hotel he was staying in and who had initially refused his request to have a piano installed in his room. They moved to the Isle of Wight, which was where Pritchett's family came from, in 1948, initially living in Bembridge. The following year the couple moved to Cowes and Rookstone, a bungalow on Egypt Hill, where he continued to compose, although his music had faded from popularity after World War 2.  He wrote one piece, in 1952, named after a place on the Isle of Wight, On Brading Down (which is just above a splendid Roman villa and well worth a visit if you are on the Island), but it wasn't published and is now lost.

Osborne Court, Cowes 1958

In 1959 he moved to Osborne Court on the Parade at Cowes but died there on December 1st the same year.  While Osborne Court is still there today and, hopefully. listed, given it's prime seafront position and the alarming rate of development in Cowes (a pub had gone from the high street, I noticed this summer, to be replaced by yet more luxury apartments), we don't know how secure its future is.

Osborne Court today

Last summer I was walking up Egypt Hill in Cowes and noticed that Rookstone, the bungalow he moved to in 1949, had been demolished and replaced with a rather horrible (and expensive looking) modern monstrosity (not that Rookstone had any architectural merit but that's not the point).  There were several letters of protest to the Isle of Wight County Press at the time but to no avail.  Fortunately, I had captured it in the photo in this post a few years ago.


  1. Glad to see you manage some Afghans in August. You're cruising at a great clip painting wise well compared to some of us anyway.

  2. I switched to darker bases for my toy soldiers a few years ago. The idea is that it makes the models stand out. That's the theory, anyway.

    1. On the whole, rightly or wrongly, I don't paint my figures using artistic criteria. That's why I don't use techniques like black lining, however good it may look, or acrylic paint either, come to that. As for bases I paint them the colour of the ground they fought over.

      These ones may look a bit weak as I hadn't added the grass.

  3. My bit of Chelmsford is on the flight path from RAF Somewhere to central London, so whenever they have fly-pasts for the Queen etc the relevant aircraft fly over my house. I remember when they had a Lancaster fly for her Jubilee celebration and I will never forget the noise - as it was directly overhead I could almost feel the house shaking. Noisy things, these WW2 bombers.