Saturday, August 23, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

I did get about three hours painting done this afternoon as I move on slowly with the Afghans.  They have been on the paint table now so long that we have actually moved into a different geological time period from the one I started them in.  In order to try and actually log some completed figures for August I have decided to take six of them and try to get them finished tomorrow.  There are only eight days left in August and I am away for four of them.  I will aim to finish the other twelve next month.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Time for tea!

Avast there!

No paint table Saturday again last weekend.  Well, I had intended to sit down and get some painting done but all I managed was to finish the shoes and muskets on the Afghans, base some North Star pirates and then my friend Bill came around on one of his 13 bicycles.  He wanted to look at our shed because he needs a shed just for bikes.   Then after he had left, bemoaning the fact that you couldn't buy leaf tea in our local Sainsbury's, the next door neighbour came around and wanted us to feed Harry the Cat while they were away for a few days.  So I spent three hours making tea instead of painting.  This I was used to doing for Bill, as we seemed to spend a lot of time doing that when we visited each other's rooms at college.  But not so the neighbour (who has a very nice wife), as he explained the terrifying complexity of the operation of the cat flap. "If he's out he needs to be able to get in but if it's the evening he mustn't get out again so you must set it so it's one way in so he can't get out but if it's the morning he needs to get out then it must be set so he can go out but not in unless it's the afternoon when you have to set it so he can go in and out..."  I thought cat flaps were a sort of horizontally oriented version of a saloon door not some complicated airlock system worthy of Space Hulk.  I wish Charlotte was here, as that's usually her job.

When I was at college I drank a lot of tea (as I still do - coffee makes me go strange) and it was always leaf tea.  I couldn't resist those different coloured Jacksons of Piccadilly tea caddies, being a collector by nature, and had to acquire each one.  I got very excited when the new black Kenyan one came out.  You probably couldn't have a black caddy for Kenyan tea these days as it would be deemed racist.  Or maybe I just put my Kenyan tea in the black one.  Oh dear!

I also had a lot of Fortnum & Mason square green tins, as well as odd packets of other esoterica like the Georgian Black tea which you could get in The Russian Shop in London - a way for the Soviet Union to make some hard currency before the fall of the Iron Curtain.  I also bought a bottle of sweet red Crimean sparkling wine in there.  Once.  It was truly disgusting and I ended up pouring most of it over my girlfriend's torso (she enjoyed the fizzing).  These days I have got rid of all my Jackson's tea caddies (somewhat annoyingly when they are going on eBay for £9.00 each) and keep my Lifeboat teabags in a nice biscuit tin illustrated with Czech artist Alphonse Mucha's paintings of the Four Seasons.

A favourite for City affairs

Everyone at college used leaf tea then and I know I really should now but, as one of my former secretary's, L, used to say if I asked her to do anything too taxing (like filing), "I can't be arsed".  Still, she was a lovely girl with a penchant for skin tight denims when we introduced dress down Friday (something I never participated in in case I got called over to Mansion House, Westminster or had to go to a City wine bar where everyone would stare at you if you weren't in a suit and think you were some sort of IT person).  L and I got on very well (rather too well) and we used to go out for stress relieving drinking sessions in the darkly-lit subterranean Davy's wine bars in the City.  These were all divided up by wooden partitions and were great places to lurk, largely unseen.  Very popular with men taking their secretaries out illicitly. She left after eighteen months having announced she was pregnant.  I was immediately called in to the Chief Executive's office and asked if it was mine (it wasn't - it was her ex-husband.  "he only came round once," she wailed.  Once is enough, of course.).  And I thought we were being so discrete too!  Despite my innocence I was informed that any replacement secretary had to be more than fifty years old.  "No more dolly birds!" said the Chief Executive. tetchily.

Tea in the Shangri-La

Anyway, although I like leaf tea (the best I ever had was in the Imperial Hotel in Delhi, not surprisingly) unless someone else is doing the work I can't be bothered most of the time with all that teapot nonsense.  Generally, you can get good tea in Asia, of course, and one of my favourite places for that is the original Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.  Even tea bags need boiling water, though, something which seems to be lost on those living in the Americas.  That said, I had a very good pot of tea made with leaves in a restaurant called Boa, overlooking the sea on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica a few years ago but that was an exception.  Usually you get the dreaded yellow label attached to a Lipton's bag which makes tea which tastes like the water you get in a mug in the dishwasher if you have put it in the wrong way up (i.e the right way up).  Oddly, that was pretty close to the way I used to like my tea.  So pale that it was basically only a tint darker than the milk I put in it.

"How d'ja like yah tea?"asked my not yet pregnant secretary on her first day. She was from Romford.
 "Like my women" I replied, sounding alarmingly like Swiss Tony from The Fast Show (again you couldn't say anything like that these days).
"Hot and strong?" she ventured.
"Pale and weak," I answered, remembering a slew of ivory-skinned redheads.
"You'll drink it how I make it," she said.

Ami 6 - the first car in the world with oblong headlights

My sister and mother refused to let me make their tea as it was so weak and the builders looked at my effort with derision, recently, when I offered them a mug when the Old Bat was out and couldn't do her tea lady duties.  Or maybe that was because I had bought them custard creams and the Old Bat was giving them Bahlsen biscuits.  Our beetle-browed chief builder (and as a builder he was quite superb and actually came in under budget on the extension) affected a permanent  bemused frown which made him look just like one of the ugliest cars France has ever produced (and that's saying something) the Citroën Ami 6.  France was awash with these curious looking vehicles when we had our family holidays there in the sixties and early seventies.  My sister used to call it the "eyebrow car".  You never see them today as they have nearly all rusted to bits.  Even the addition of gamine yé-yé type girls in their sixties advertisements couldn't do anything to glamourise this uncomfortable mixture of old tin boxes and Easter Island Moai.

Tea for two.  Lunch for fourteen

Latterly, however, I have taken to drinking my tea much stronger (not as strong as the builders but they were all from Hampshire) for no reason I can fully explain.  Perhaps it is the same process that is making me appreciate ladies with a very well developed embonpoint these days; something that I had previously ignored as a positive feature in a young lady.

"Are you a legs man, a tits man or an arse man?" (I apologise for her language but she was from Essex, as I have mentioned) asked L, during one of our first cozy rendezvous in the City Pipe (sadly now ponced up and called The Foster Project instead).  When I informed her that I did really enjoy a pert posterior she informed me that that was the wrong answer as they were the worse type of man.  "Lowest form of life" I think were her exact words.  Whether my new-found regard for busts would have mollified her I doubt.

Now, as I have mentioned before, the Legatus' favourite tea is Lifeboat tea made for them by the excellent Williamson Tea company (they have splendid tea caddies which are painted to look like elephants) who have had their own plantations in Kenya since 1869.  This is, therefore, ideal Darkest Africa tea!  I was very excited to discover a new breakfast tea version of lifeboat tea when I was in the RNLI shop in Cowes the week before last.

Now it's not just Lifeboat tea at the moment because North Star are giving out a free tea bag with every order.  The fact that I have quite a few of these now is a bit of a give away.  They are even producing a range of miniatures of figures drinking tea which is delightfully eccentric of them!

I picked up the North-West frontier version in my last order of the new British and Sikhs, who are nearly all based now.  The tea drinking officer is at the centre in the picture above.  I am hoping to do these next after I finish the Afghans and also hoping that they won't take long.  I am going to try to paint them in one big batch.  Sadly, I don't think I will be able to finish the Afghans this month as I am off to Edinburgh for a couple of days and then down to Cowes for the powerboat racing the following weekend. To avoid nul points in August I might just try to finish one or two one-off figures clogging up the painting table.

Elsewhere, as regards the lead and plastic pile, I have succumbed to the new Victrix early Republican Roman figures, despite the fact that I already have a number of painted Crusader Miniatures ones. This is the biggest Roman force I have ever painted (Big Red Bat snorts in derision) but I think I will use the same simple colour scheme and plain shields.  LBMS have produced a set of shield transfers which are lovely although I think he has over-done the battle damage on them.  I'd rather have my shields pristine and then paint any damage if they ever see a fight in anger.

Sadly, I had to pass up a wargame at Eric the Shed's this week as I had to talk to Colombians in the evening (and they were in a right grump as it was a public holiday there).   Also in the back of my mind is, shockingly, a modern skirmish project but that is still in the planning stage.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back from Cowes...

Our house is in there somewhere!

Like many people I have taken some time off recently but not that much as if I don't work I don't get paid, so I just had a few days in Cowes this year.  Also Charlotte was working for the BBC at the Edinburgh Festival and couldn't get away until Monday.

Cowes Week seemed much quieter this year and there was a distinct shortage of really good yachty totty, sadly.  Still, we enjoyed those tanned legs which were very much on display given another welcome summer of shorts and the equally welcome dismal failure of the attempted return of the hated maxi dress - what a disappointment that  was in the the seventies for the Legatus, just when he was first showing a real interest in young ladies.

There were a lot less tents and stalls along the parade this year and the ones that were there were largely just clothes or food stalls.  No enticing ladies trying to get you to win a boat this year.  I was quite tempted by the paella stall but wasn't sure about eating anything from somewhere where it seemed to sit out all day and you didn't know if they just kept adding stuff to it for days.

Kaboom!  Eric's new light up flickering explosion markers were put to good use!

I was very busy before I left for the Isle of Wight so never got a chance to report on my visit to Eric the Shed's, where he kindly hosted a game of VBCW for Alastair, Matt, Mark and I on his new extended board, which is now vast.  He has a full report on it here but I really enjoyed using an aircraft for the first time in a wargame, to successfully bomb an enemy Renault tank.  This was the second time I had played Bolt Action and I am really starting to like the rules.  I must get some more WW2 figures finished!  I might see how they work for Back of Beyond games.  That is three games this year!

Having not looked at any blogs for a bit (the house in Cowes has no internet access) I am amazed at how much has gone up in a week.  It will take me some time to catch up.

Sophie was asking me what had happened to my final Tour de France food posting.  Given its limited appeal I will put this up separately later.  That said, I have recently written a food-based piece for the next edition of the new Wargames Bloggers Quarterly, which looks like it could become a major force in the wargames world, given the calibre of people involved.  Many of my favourite bloggers are working on this and the first issue contains an excellent photograph by Big Red Bat, of his Cremona game, detailed inside.  The design of the pdf magazine is really excellent and easily looks as smart as the professional print magazines out there.

Usually I take some figures down to Cowes to paint but given our short stay this year I didn't bother.  However, all was not lost on the hobby front as Hurst the ironmonger had restocked with my favourite washers!  I bought all they had, 200 of them, which should hopefully keep me going for a year or two.  I am going back at the end of the month so hopefully they will have restocked.  It made my week!

Anyway, while watching the Ride London cycle race on TV yesterday I cleaned up and based my Artizan Designs North West Frontier figures.  There are some good second hand bookshops on the Isle of Wight and in one I got this Michael Barthop illustrated history of the North-West Frontier.  Can't wait to start these, although I am planning to finish my tribesmen first.  I did manage to paint their shoes yesterday in the limited time I had!

Although we got back from Cowes on Saturday I spent an inordinate amount of time walking yesterday, as the main road was completely closed for the Ride London cycle events.  We had the 23,000 amateurs coming past the end of the drive in the morning, in the pouring rain, and then the professional road race in the afternoon.  It meant, however, that I had to park the car a mile's walk away, the other side of the course so I could take the Old Bat to work.  I had to do the walk six times between Saturday night and Sunday night, which essentially used up all my painting time.  Oh well, maybe I can do an hour this evening if the light holds.

Another big addition to the lead pile arrived this morning in the splendid shape of the new North Star pirates.  Forty two figures plus five pre-order specials.  I really like the monkey and the treasure chest!  You can read more about the figures on my Swashbucklers blog.  The Assassin's Creed character will be winging his way to Scott in Middle Earth (Scott, I've sent you an email via your blog Gmail address) because, for some reason, I hate the stupid looking hooded character!  He is nearly as annoying as BBC gardening presenter Monty Don or the most annoying person on TV, Gok Wan.

I will use the cabin boy to represent John King, an 11 year old pirate I learnt about from an excellent pirate exhibition I went to in Houston a few years ago.  I'm going to have to be really disciplined and not start work on the pirates now!

Monday, August 04, 2014

100 years ago today...

Like many others I am commemorating Britain's declaration of war in 1914 today.  I have already posted a picture of my grandfather in his KRRC uniform but he volunteered for the nascent RFC and spent the rest of the war there.

Here, from just over 99 years ago is the form postcard he sent to his father from France.  Not many of my contemporaries had a grandfather who fought in WW1 but because my father was 37 when I was born, I did.  I do remember meeting him when I was small.  It is this personal connection, missing from today's youngsters, which makes it easier to help them understand the importance of commemorating the World Wars.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Paint Table Saturday: 100 years since the beginning of the Great War

While I continue to work on my Afghans (and the British and Sikhs arrived this week) for the 2nd Afghan War, I thought it would be a bit boring to post yet another picture of them up.  Given the Great War anniversary, therefore, here, instead, is another project I am working on.  These are the new Mutton Chop Miniatures WW1 British (beautifully) sculpted by Paul Hicks.   These are the first four packs.  The command have just been released so I will order those soon.