Saturday, December 23, 2017

Victrix War Elephant Part 1

I have decided to have a Christmas painting project, so ordered the Victrix war elephant for my Carthaginian army.  It arrived today and I have started constructing it.  You can see how far I got on my long neglected Punic Wars blog here.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Paint table Sunday...back from my travels

I have lost the last four weekends to travelling but am now back home with, thankfully, nowhere to go to until well into the new year, hopefully.  The process of going through airports is now so ghastly and stressful I wish I never had to travel again anywhere.  I have done ten flights in under three weeks which is like the bad old days.

I have, at last, finished my North West Frontier Sikh artillery crew and gun.  This completes my initial force for The Men Who Would be Kings rules.  Initially, I painted the Sikhs with a red turban but someone on the TMWWBK Facebook page suggested that they would probably have had khaki turbans (or dastaars, to be more precise) at this time, so I repainted them, even though they look less striking,

So here is the full force (with artillery still with red turbans).  I now need to complete a force of Afghan tribesmen although, at present, I am slightly hampered by the lack of any suitable Afghan cavalry, although the Perry brothers are reputed to be planning some (they seem to have given up on the workbench section of their website) but I still have quite a few infantry to complete.

I have been buying the wargames magazines but increasingly I am finding it difficult to read them as they insist on using grey print in a really tiny font.  I had another eye injection last week but I have begun to realise that I will never be able to paint properly again,  The finish on the Sikhs is very blotchy and things I could paint with no trouble, like collar trim, earlier in the year are just impossible for me now.  There are a couple of things I am looking at on the wargaming front including Footsore Miniatures new Gangs of Rome range, although the figures for this skirmish game are an eye watering £8 each!

More immediately interesting, is the issue of the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings Battle Companies  rule book (for a surprisingly cheap £25).  I collected the rules for this many years ago from White Dwarf but this is the first time they have been published in a book.  Guy, Charlotte and I enjoyed our games of this a lot in the past and the new rules also have companies for the Hobbit which is useful as collecting enough figures for a bigger battle for the Hobbit would be ludicrously expensive.

My only issue is that I was gradually tending more to skirmish gaming but now my eyesight is so bad I am thinking that mass units may be better as painting quality is less critical for en masse figures.  Painting a GW LotR figure now would really be beyond me.  At least I have some Battle Companies already painted, like this Isengard one from 2010.

One thing about subscribing to some of the rule specific wargames pages on Facebook is that I spot things that otherwise would have passed me by, like the new campaign supplement for Congo which features the adventures of a lady explorer.  I haven't played Congo yet, as I missed the one game played at the Shed but I think I would enjoy it.  I ordered mine from Foundry which came with  a number of figures representing the key characters in it.  Maybe I will do some Darkest Africa figures next as I was in Africa earlier in the month.

It is typical that I hadn't had any overseas trips for over a year and then two came along in successive weeks.  First off, I was back to Botswana in a trip which had been rescheduled from earlier in the year.  A horrid little plane from Johannesburg didn't help and then we had 41 degrees centigrade.  Even the locals were complaining about the heat.  We had to wear suits and ties, of course, as that is what the locals in business wear.  It was a successful trip and we will probably be going back for a couple of weeks early next year (or June, given Botswanan urgency).

I was back in the UK for less than a day and then it was off to Houston, on my way to EL Salvador.  I met up with my particular friend, S, there and we had a very enjoyable dinner in the Hotel Zaza (nothing as exciting as Eland and goat which I had in Gaborone for the first time ) but which included the best steak I have ever had in America; really first class and perfectly cooked (i.e, hardly at all).  While in Houston, the firm I was working for (not my usual one) sent me the FCO travel advice for El Salvador.  'There are no safe areas in El Salvador' it began, worryingly and then spent  a page talking about bandits, muggers and kidnappers.

"I'll look after you!" said S, doing a few kickboxing kicks in my room.  Apart from the fact that I didn't know she was planning to come with me, I pointed out that you weren't supposed to fight back.  "No-one is taking my Rolex!" she said, fiercely.  In fact, San Salvador was a pleasant, if slightly ramshackle city, built beneath an active volcano.  "Don't worry it hasn't erupted for a hundred years!"  I was told.  "And a hundred years before that!"  This was starting to sound like a sequence to me but I was assured that the country (the 70th I have visited) had top notch volcanologists to predict such things.

Anyway, the most offensive thing about El Salvador was the fact that they had all their Christmas decorations up, even though it was mid November.  We bravely went out to a restaurant too (it did have armed guards outside) and they were playing Christmas music there!  Fortunately, not Andy Williams Christmas Album.

Ana and Ana!

I had two very helpful assistants to look after me while I was there, make sure I didn't go to the wrong places and help translate (although El Salvadorean Spanish is very clear and I understood about 60% of it).  "Why don't you ever get ugly male assistants?" asked S.  Because it's Latin America!

I flew there and back on United Airlines (actually very good, long haul) and you could pay a few hundred dollars for extra legroom on the Houston/London legs which was well worth it, even though I paid myself and can't claim it back.  So I arrived back home in a better state than usual, only to discover the Old Bat fulminating over her new car.  I won't go into all the issues she has with it (some of which are valid, like no spare tyre and nowhere to put one) but they all, basically come down to baffling technology.  This car (from 2011) is theoretically the same car as her old one (from 2005) but is a completely new model and, in the interim, technology has exploded in cars.  We have no idea what most of the myriad buttons ("I don't want buttons I like knobs!" she says) are for and it has lots of things we will never use like Bluetooth and satnav ("by the time you work out how to programme it you will be where you want to go by using a map!").  We still don't know how to operate the climate control or programme the radio and there are all sorts of buttons on the steering wheel which are equally baffling.  "Just more stuff to go wrong!" she says.  The biggest bugbear was the rear view mirror that automatically darkens to reduce glare from car headlights at night.  She said she couldn't see a thing behind her as a result but she solved the issue by sticking a blob of Blu Tack over the sensor.  When the garage who sold it to her rang after a few days to see how she liked it she harangued them for half an hour about how useless it is and wanted her old car back, except they had already sold it.  The Old Bat doesn't like change and she hates technology even more than me, which is saying something.

I was back just a few days and then it was up to Edinburgh to see Charlotte in the flat that is costing me £8,500 a year! "It's very nice," she says, with its en suite bathroom, central heating and her own kitchen,  Grr!  Students are supposed to suffer!  Luckily for her she is my dear little kitten so gets anything she wants!  Edinburgh was freezing.  Three degrees but the windchill was horrific.  I had had two weeks where the temperature was never less than 29C!  We walked miles and had to have tea in the John Lewis cafe to warm up.  I nearly bought a TV in the Black Friday Sale but I object to Black Friday on principle as it is an unwelcome American import, like grey squirrels, trick or treating, baseball caps and saying 'mac and cheese'.  I didn't buy the TV as it had no Scart sockets which my DVD player requires.

On the last morning, Charlotte took us to the fossil shop and I got a pair of trilobite cufflinks on the basis I like the idea of walking around with something half a billion years old on my cuffs.  Cheaper than a new TV, anyway and I also got an excellent ankylosaurus model there too!  Coming down from the shop, and walking through Grassmarket, the Old Bat pointed out a man dressed as a Viking and asked Charlotte if she knew him.  She did (most of Charlotte's friends in Edinburgh appear to be Dark Ages re-enactors).  He was selling mead, a drink I had never had (I suspect it may not be very diabetic friendly) but he gave me some and it was very good indeed.  Pricey, though at about £20 a bottle.

Now, the Legatus hates Christmas but Edinburgh does Christmas really, really well and after wandering around the huge Christams market, seeing all the lights and decorations on the shops and visiting the ice sculpture exhibition (the advertised minus ten temperature didn't feel much colder than the streets outside) even I was starting to feel a bit Christmassy.  Horrors!

Desnudo de mujer (1902)

Today's wallpaper is by Spanish impressionist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) who was best known for his bright sunlit landscapes and beach scenes.  He studied in Madrid and Rome and had a great success at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900.  A very productive painter, he was financially very successful.  His widow left many paintings to the Spanish state and they are exhibited in his old home in Madrid.  This is a full on boudoir effort, very different from some of his social themed pieces and atypical in many ways but, none the less, magnificent in its handling of pink satin.

Today's music is Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings Symphony, an interesting reworking of the main themes from his three films.  Recorded live (although you wouldn't know it) in Switzerland in 2011 the orchestra isn't a patch on the RPO but still does a pretty good job.  My iTunes LotR playlist lasts 21 hours so there will be plenty of music to paint by!