Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Friday, 10 October 2014

ECW Generals

Rupert and Chums
A very pleasant feature of an otherwise fairly dismal week here was the arrival of a little packet of ECW generals, painted for me by Iain in return for my foisting off some old deadbeat cavalry onto him - an exchange out of which I feel I did rather well. Iain has long been one of my favourite brush-wielders, and he has done a lovely job on these - thank you, again, young sir. (Hope the house-move goes well.)

It is an established truism that, for 20mm ECW, you just can't get the staff these days, so these fellows are especially welcome. These are SHQ figures, though the left hand figure (who is Prince Rupert in his working gear) is actually a Tumbling Dice man, hacked around a bit, with a pistol from Old John's useful accessory pack (from his 20mm Nostalgic Revival range), and his horse, as usual with my armies, is an SHQ casting, to try to keep scale creep down.

Such is my crazed enthusiasm, I even bought a packet of HO white metal cats and dogs from a model railway supplier, but eventually went off the idea of commissioning a 20mm scale Boye to keep the Prince company on his adventures. Partly this was because it would restrict the scope for getting Rupert to act out the part of someone else when required, but mostly it was because the dogs were not really of suitable breeds, and it would be undignified for the King's nephew to be galloping across the battlefield with a Dachshund. For an instant, I did consider providing one of my ECW personalities with a cat...

So please say hello to Rupert and his chums (as once featured in the Daily Express), and we expect them to speak exclusively in rhyming couplets from this point on. 


In passing, last night I was reading my revised edition of Donald Featherstone's Wargaming Pike and Shot (as one does), when I suddenly received a shock which might have threatened to spill my cocoa if I had had any. I was reading Mr Featherstone's animated account of the Battle of Auldearn in 1645, when I was surprised to note that Montrose was opposed on this occasion by an English force under the command of Sir John Hurry. English? If there was one person I can think of who would have  reacted badly to any confusion over just who was English and who was not, it would be DFF, so this is a puzzle to me - I am not letting go of this one - and there can be no temporary mistyping here, since the army's Englishness is restated on a number of occasions in the narrative. The battle map shows clearly that this English force appears to have comprised the regiments and contingents of Lothian, Findlater,  Seaforth, Moray, Campbell of Lawers and some Highland levies, so what can he possibly mean? Does he mean that they were Protestants? That they were the national army of Scotland, who were allied to the army of the English Parliament? I would reject, out of hand, any suggestion that the writer had had a tiny lapse of memory, and had slipped a hundred years to the Jacobite Unpleasantness. My surprise is only heightened by the fact that this proxy English army at Auldearn, of course, was on the receiving end of - to use a noble Scots phrase - a good gubbing.

So - it is no matter at all, but I am intrigued. I am keen to get back to the book tonight to see if the French turn up at Cropredy Bridge.

Please note - any commenters will get no marks at all for mentioning the Referendum or any related matters. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hooptedoodle #151 – Health & Safety – Donkey Special


This is a tale which I heard about some years ago, but I rejected it as an urban legend. I was too hasty – I have now had confirmation that it was, in fact, true, so I shall tell it to you, that you may share the wonder.

About 4 years ago, my mate Brian had two jobs; he owned the pub in a local village, but he was also an engineer – he specialised in CAD computerised design of heavy-spec heating and ventilation systems – in hospitals and suchlike. For a while, he was commuting from Scotland to York, where he worked on a big project Monday to Friday, staying in lodgings and driving home each Friday evening.

At the time there was some discussion (which required much beer and profanity) of the fact that there was very little of the job for which he needed to be on-site – he could have done all the CAD work at home, emailing in his drawings. He would have to attend a monthly site meeting, but mostly it would be cheaper and simpler if he worked from home, which (of course) would also leave his evenings free to run his pub, rather than drink in someone else’s. This was the basis on which he originally took the job, but the rules were changed.

However, it seems that the main contractor required him to work in York, and – since he was going to be on-site there – he had to attend a Health & Safety briefing first thing every Monday morning, and sign a form to say that he had attended it. Otherwise he was not permitted on the site.

After a while, Brian discovered that the way this really worked was the main contractor needed him to be in York to sign the H&S attendance form, and – as he was now there anyway – they provided office facilities and an accommodation allowance for him to spend his working week there. In other words, he was required to attend the H&S briefing only because he was going to be on-site in York, and the only reason he really had to be on-site was to attend the H&S briefing. It was actually in the contract like this; Brian eventually got very tired of the arrangement, and explained to them in some detail where they could put their ventilators.


We’re here because we’re here because
We’re here because we’re here

etc

Monday, 6 October 2014

ECW Campaign - The Map


After publishing yesterday's photo of the Battlefinder cards laid out for the campaign map, I spent a few hours playing around with Gimp, and produced a proper graphic-edited version, which I shall have printed at size A3 (or possibly A2, if the resolution will take it) and laminated by my friendly local print shop, for putting up on the magnetic board in my office.

Here it is, in a reduced size. If you wish to have a look at it, remember this is just a home-tweaked version of The Perfect Captain's Battlefinder system, which is available as a free download from their (his?) website. The only non-standard bit of these cards is that I have changed the place names to suit the North of England - so the influences are Nordic and Saxon rather than Norman. You will observe that some of the cards are inverted - this is deliberate, to get the river to run the correct way. Remember also that this is complete fantasy - no association with real places, past or present, is intended.

The card images do not represent immediately adjacent pieces of terrain - each of these sites may be anything from 5 to 20 miles from its neighbours on the board.

* * * 

Supplementary “Late Edit”

I received a number of emails asking for more detail on how the map is used. I am sort of feeling my way into this campaign, so to some extent the answers are going to be “not quite sure yet”; the idea is that it will be a simplification of The Perfect Captain’s Tinker Fox ECW campaign scenario, which is intended for use with Battlefinder and is, again, available as a download from TPC’s website.

It will be a simplification because I am conducting this campaign solo – thus, for example, the procedure of issuing “Letters” each turn to give orders to subordinate commanders can be a lot less formal and detailed. I had also thought that I was going to do something pretty rudimentary about provisioning the troops, based on the “Provender Points” (P ratings) in the margin on each “district” card, ignoring the more daunting prospect of running a detailed revenue budget for each army – my past experience of campaigns has been that the road to insanity lies in the housekeeping.

On further thought, I’m not so sure. It seems to me that the Tinker Fox game is substantially about keeping one’s own troops in line, by paying them (if absolutely necessary!) just in time to prevent open mutiny. I didn’t fancy that overhead – not in a huge amount of detail anyway – but I am also aware that the motivation of the troops in the ECW on a day-to-day basis has more to do with the likelihood of their getting paid than with any minor issues such as the falling-out of King and Parliament. Some element of revenue management may be necessary, though I am a bit apprehensive about it. Also, the existence of a treasure chest with each marching force gives some kind of additional objective!

Current thoughts, in no particular order, and with no implication of permanence:

(1) A turn will be a week. In that time, in decent weather, a mounted, unencumbered force may travel up to 5 districts (i.e. most of the way across the map, if the way is clear), and other forces (on foot, with wagons or guns) may travel up to 3.
(2) Thus the areas between cards represent substantial distances, as described. The map as shown is not a mosaic of terrain tiles; Dr Allen De Vries, who introduced me to the Battlefinder system, describes the map as “an array of football pitches in a large swamp”, which is a little bizarre. Further, travel between the districts is only possible along the 6 paths shown on the template. You cannot fight, manoeuvre or do anything else in the gaps.
(3) The only element of continuity between adjacent districts is the river. The river cannot be crossed between cards – all crossing points are shown in the districts. In some cases, the road appears to track nicely from one card to the next, but not reliably so. Between adjacent cards, the paths and so on behave in some unknown manner which just happens to get you to the correct edge of the next card.
(4) The cards themselves are probably only a guide(!) – for a start, my table is not quite that shape, in any of its configurations. Maps were notoriously poor, though I would expect that the “home” (defending?) side would get less surprises on the battlefield terrain than the other side!
(5) Initial idea is that the Royalists have a major “capitol” (Battlefinder terminology) at Lowther, with useful surrounding towns and villages capable of supporting garrisons. The Parliament side will start at the bottom (southern) edge of the map, and may be deployed on both sides of the river if required. Objective for each side is to get the opposition out of the area, and capture of the enemy capitol is an outright win. At some point, yet to be thought through, the Parliament side will be reinforced by a Covenanter force arriving in the lower right quarter of the map – from roughly the direction of York (or Newcastle, or some such place we may never have heard of).
(6) Back to the housekeeping - Tinker Fox seems to me rather to gloss over the matter of ammunition. On the fells of Lancashire/Westmorland, you might come across a sack of beans or a stray cow or two, but a train of powder and ball seems unlikely. Again, I am keen to avoid insanity in the detail, but this does need some thought. Attacking and capturing powder trains was a well-regarded activity in these parts. 

One message from the emails was “why publish a map if you don’t know how you are going to use it?” – which is valid enough, I guess. Partly I put it up there because a map is a map, and it must be possible to use it somehow – especially since the Battlefinder system and the Tinker Fox scenario contain more than enough clues for how I will choose to make it work. I also put it up there to let it ripen for a while – like the “know your enemy” pictures detectives put on their whiteboards in TV movies!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

ECW Campaign – More on the Context


I spent an interesting afternoon building a campaign map using my home-modified cards for the Perfect Captain’s Battlefinder system. The picture above captures the actual master map laid out on the template – I include this photo only because I have it available and it might be of passing interest – I do not expect that anyone will actually be able to read it. No matter – I have everything documented, and a more or less longwinded narrative will appear in time, giving the background (i.e. the fake history) to my ECW campaign. The area depicted is the countryside surrounding the River Arith, which almost certainly lies somewhere between Lancaster and Carlisle.

It’s important to understand that the photo does not show an approximation to an aerial view of the area – it is simply a network of sites which are separated by some undisclosed distance of the order of 5 to 20 miles – each card does not weld seamlessly to its neighbours; I have a vague feeling that it would if the system were really any good, but it doesn’t. These are simply memorable locations (out of the scenario book?) laid out on a template. It is (whisper it) a game board.

One early adjustment to my context work is that the date for the campaign has now slipped back to Spring 1644, which thus allows my Covenanter units to turn out for Parliament. Ah, I hear you say – ah, but – would the Covenanters not have been busy at the siege of Newcastle, and at the build-up to Marston Moor? Are said Covenanters not, as it were, spoken for?

What Marston Moor, I ask? What siege of Newcastle? The real joy of working at the shadowy overlap of fact and fiction is that I can please myself which bits of the genuine stuff I admit to. The scope is limitless – if it suits me to allow real history to place Covenanters on my OOB then I shall take full advantage, while simultaneously ignoring any of that same history which does not fit my script. I am lying on the floor, roaring with delight at the possibilities.

Oh - that Lowther Castle. I think not - built too late, and, anyway, look at the
state of it
The unusually sharp-sighted may spot the walled town of Lowther on my map – an important garrison town for the Royalists in this area. Someone has already asked me, is this connected with Lowther Castle, the home of the Earls of Lonsdale, in old Westmorland? Surely this is a real place? Not necessarily, comes the reply; if it suits my campaign history, the answer may be a tentative yes, but if it does not fit comfortably then it is a complete coincidence, and the town was named for a fellow from Grange-over-Sands I once did Physics practicals with on Saturday mornings in first year at university, sometime in another century.

Anyway – what Lowther Castle?



Friday, 3 October 2014

ECW Campaign – Preliminary Work & More Testing

Thornthwaite - with St David's in the background
Some time – probably within the next couple of months – I hope at last to get my solo ECW campaign under way. I am collecting together a short shopping list of ideas, and of things that I learned from my Peninsular War campaign which I wish to do differently this time.

The campaign will not use a formal map; the idea is to improvise a map based on my “North Country” edition of the Perfect Captain’s “Battlefinder” card system, and the rules for supply and movement will be correspondingly simpler.

The area to be fought over will thus be fictitious, and the forces and leaders will also be of my own invention. There was nothing wrong with using real places and (more or less) real armies in the Peninsular War, but doing so definitely pushes towards a specific organisation, and the strategies are bound to reflect what really happened, at least in part. This time it will be different – the area to be used will be some previously unknown location vaguely similar to the Lonsdale Hundred of Lancashire (which in reality includes Lancaster and part of the Lake District), and the participants will be my own invention, though some of them may look rather like known historical units – pure coincidence. You will not find the towns or roads on John Speed’s contemporary maps, but that is entirely because Speed opted not to show them. You will not find any historical record of the troops or the generals, but that is simply because Peter Young overlooked them.

The timing will be (vaguely) 1643, to keep everything up in the air and steer clear of the New Model Army. The political context will be smudged to suit the occasion whenever necessary. The tabletop battles will use my ECW variant of Commands & Colors:Napoleonics, which is undergoing some further minor changes – these are to be tested thoroughly before use. Formal sieges, and also any battles which are too small or otherwise unsuitable for a miniatures game, will be handled by the algorithmic approach which worked well in the Peninsula.

* * * *

Yesterday I had a preliminary solo game to test some recent rule tweaks – it represented the little-known Battle of Thornthwaite, which is separate from the campaign but is around the same area, and employs some of the same forces. It is a decent-sized toe in the water.

Thornthwaite is a prosperous little market town of approximately 800 inhabitants. The prominent family in the area are the Hesketh’s, cousins of the Marquess of Newcastle; they are Catholics and strong supporters of the King, and their sympathies are reflected in the stance of the inhabitants. The town’s important position, commanding the highway from Lancaster to some other place, is well recognised, though it has no walls and is not a particularly easy place to defend, the nearby River Dribble being a negligible stream at this time of year. The Royalist army in the area, under the command of Lord Benedict Porteous, alerted to the approach of a sizeable Parliamentarian army, has placed infantry in the town itself, and also in the parish church of St David of Briardale, which now lies about half a mile from the town, as a result of rebuilding after the plagues of the previous century.

The particular rule tweaks to be tested in this action were:

Accelerated troop movement – 1 hex bonus when further than 2 hexes from the enemy.
C&C “section” command cards (other than any which refer to the number of cards in the player’s hand – Assault and Refuse, being examples) may be applied to a Leader who is attached to one of his own units, and the order extends to any contiguous string of units from the same brigade.
Some changes to the influence and immortality of attached Leaders.
An experimental rule to cover the fire of Mortars, and a system for recording damage to built-up areas (and, though we had none yesterday, fortress walls).
A couple of refinements of movement rules, including a fledging road bonus and a change whereby units may move through friendly artillery, but may not end their move in the same hex.
A few other things.

Orders of Battle (numbers in square brackets are simply the identifying unit number on the bases; the list also shows the colours of small beads blu-tacked onto the bases to make it easier to keep brigades together and identify the army structure)

Battle of Thornthwaite – 1643

Army of the Parliament (Sir Nathaniel Aspinall [87])

Horse
Right                         – brigade of Lord Alwyn [96] (purple)
      Col Thomas South’s RoH [125]
      Sir Rowland Barkhill’s RoH [126]
    brigade of Col Thomas Chetwynd [97] (red)
      Chetwynd’s RoH [123]
      Sir William Dundonald’s RoH [124]
Left                            – Col Matthew Allington [98] (silver)
      Sir Beardsley Heron’s RoH [121]
      Col James Winstanley’s RoH [122]
      Col Richard Sudley’s RoH [127]
      Lord Eastham’s RoH [128]

Foot
Right                         - Col Robert Bryanston [86] (green)
                                                      Bryanston’s RoF [106]
                                                      Col Obediah Hawkstone’s RoF [107]
Left                            - Col Edward Buckland [84] (yellow)
                                                      Buckland’s RoF [101]
                                                      Col Joseph Grafton’s RoF [105]
                                                      Col John Burdett’s RoF [108]
Reserve                   - Lord Lambton [99] (sky blue)
                                                      Lord Lambton’s RoF [102]
                                                      Sir Thos Nielson’s RoF [103]
                                                      Sir Julius Mossley’s RoF [104]

Unattached
                                                      Capt Wm Ancaster’s Dragoons [120]
                                                      Med Gun [140]
                                                      Light Gun [139]
                                                      Heavy Gun [147]
                                                      Heavy Mortar [157]

Army of the King (Benedict, Lord Porteous [3])

Horse
Right                         - Lord Sefton [4] (green)
                                                      Lord Sefton’s RoH [44]
                                                      Sir Henry Moorhouse’s RoH [47]
                                                      Col John Noden’s RoH [48]
Left                            - Sir Roderick Broadhurst [10] (yellow)
                                                      Broadhurst’s RoH [43]
                                                      Lord Cressington’s RoH [46]

Foot
Garrison                  - Col Archibald Rice [17] (turquoise)
                                                      Rice’s RoF [23]
                                                      Col Wm Ringrose’s RoF [25]
                                                      Sir Marmaduke Davies’ RoF [27]
Reserve                   - Sir James Parkfield [19] (silver)
                                                      Parkfield’s RoF [19]
                                                      Lord Ullet’s RoF [24]
St David’s               - Col John Fulwood [18] (dk blue)
                                                      Fulwood’s RoF [28]
                                                      Capt Charles Grove’s Firelocks [38]

Unattached
                                                      Maj Oliver Dingle’s Dragoons [40]
                                                      Light Gun [59]
                                                      Med Gun [61]

Royalists had a hand of 5 Command Cards, Parliamentarians 6. The Victory Point requirement for a win was 10, 2 of these being available for possession of more of the town than the enemy and 1 for possession of St David’s church.

I shall not give a detailed account of the action – the captions of the photos should provide much of that. Both armies had an amount of horse which was not of immediate use in fighting for a town and, predictably, the Royalists started their defence by employing theirs in launching a wild cavalry charge against the (numerically superior) force of horse on the Parliamentary left.

Ignoring this distraction, the infantry brigades of Edward Buckland and Lord Lambton [P] set about attacking the town itself. Their attack was preceded by a short bombardment from a large siege mortar known as The Clapperdudgeon (commanded by Capt R Rousell), which started a couple of small fires, but failed to hurt anyone. The infantry approached the open ground to the East of the town under heavy fire of musketry, showing great courage, but were repulsed quickly and completely once they reached the edge of the town.

Buckland’s force was destroyed, and together with the heavy losses already sustained by Allington’s horsemen on the Parliamentarian left, this was sufficient to clock up the required 10 VPs before Lambton’s men could get involved in the assault, and the Parliament army withdrew, most of its troops having done little beyond some manoeuvring. They will return, they will fight again soon. The battle lasted about two hours elapsed, allowing for some head scratching over new rules.

Broadhurst's horse [R] on Mill Hill

View from behind Parliament right flank - they had more troops eventually

Col Bryanston with the Parliamentary reserve foot

General Aspinall watches his attack develop

Allington's horse on the Parliamentary left - they had a very bad day

General view of the Royalist position

Defenders in Thornthwaite

Broadhurst's men looked businesslike but didn't actually do anything

Lord Sefton's bold charge wrecks the Parliament horse

In goes the main assault - Buckland's brigade





Lord Porteous - he won, but he still doesn't know which way up the map is
I am left to ponder the advantage which “galloper” type horse gain in a melee. It may well be appropriate for the tactics, but the cavalry on both sides at this stage of the war in this theatre would mostly be provincial gentlemen and their retainers – I am not sure that there would have been a great deal of experience of the German wars, and Prince Rupert is nowhere to be seen in these parts. If there was a fault in the game here, I feel it may be more to do with my simplistic decision to make all Royalist horse “Gallopers” and all their opponents “Trotters” – certainly the Royalists cut through their opposite numbers very effectively, but that might not be entirely correct for this backwater of the wars.

Casualties among brigade commanders (which do not give rise to VPs) were lighter than I feared they might be, and the “daisychain” brigade order rule worked nicely for shifting men quickly, and encouraged a structural discipline on the armies which is pleasing and usually entirely absent in C&C. The coloured beads are a big help, but the tiny specimens I used are a complete swine to handle and attach – I spent a fair amount of time crawling around with a torch, looking for dropped beads (which, of course, roll for a surprising distance).

Interesting game – I’ve left it set up, so that I can re-run some bits of it with further tweaklets. On the King’s side, Lord Sefton distinguished himself with a remarkable cavalry attack, though he was captured in the process. Once again, artillery was mostly a waste of time once friendly infantry moved in front of it, since only the light guns may move once they have started firing – I understand this is pretty much how it was.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Hooptedoodle #150 – The Mud of Cumbria


Since it was the Contesse’s birthday last Saturday, and also since we never did get a Summer holiday this year (with one thing and another), we took a weekend break at Wetheral, near Carlisle. I haven’t visited Wetheral for about 15 years, but remember it fondly – it is a quiet village (one gets the impression that this is where the money in Carlisle lives), with interesting walks along the valley of the River Eden and blessed with an excellent, independently owned hotel (The Crown) which has great food and even a nice indoor swimming pool (which we used – my son is a very keen swimmer).

Fancy a little holiday home in a quiet village in the North West, for the weekends?
The original plan, to be honest, had been to visit Durham, but Durham was booked solid – certainly everything within our price range – which may be connected with Freshers’ Week at the university. So it was Wetheral, with possibilities for Hadrian’s Wall visits and even the north end of the Lake District (less likely, given the time available) for a little walking. We got the Autumn Special Deal by phoning the hotel direct, which – interestingly – was about 60% of the best price we obtained for the same accommodation through the better known web-based booking sites. Hmmm.

Saturday we walked down the 99 steps from the railway station to the bank of the River Eden, and walked a few miles upstream. Very pleasant scenery – the river runs almost through a gorge at points, and past a man-made island which the monks put there centuries ago to channel salmon into a trap. There is a spectacular railway viaduct (which also carries a footpath to allow you to get to Great Corby, on the opposite bank), and below Corby Castle (which is mostly Victorian in its present state) there is a very impressive man-made cascade down to the river. It must be a remarkable sight in wet weather.



This walk also renewed my acquaintance with the Mud of Cumbria, which made a big impression on me (or possibly it was the other way round) during my 2012 walk along Hadrian’s Wall. I had not forgotten about it, of course, but time softens the memory.

In September 2012 I developed some private theories that the Romans may have had some idea of exploiting the commercial potential of this very special mud – it is composed of very fine silt; in a field it can be bottomless, even if the surface looks quite firm; an innocent looking puddle will suck your boots off and laugh at you as you fall about in the mire; on a stile or on stone steps it has the exact properties of WD40, even in your best Brasher boots (assuming you still have them, after the puddle). Our exposure to it this weekend was minimal, but even so I managed to get some on the boots as I was walking on some rock shelving at the edge of the river, and I was sliding around like a drunk goat on a frozen pond. Somehow, the mud is different in neighbouring Northumberland – I must check if it changes abruptly at the county line. More study is required, with proper samples and slump tests and all that – and much discussion in pubs. I must give this some thought – anyone fancy a mud sampling weekend based around Cumbrian pubs? We could omit the mud-sampling if it seemed appropriate.

Our trip home on Sunday got off to an early start, to allow us time to have a short walk from the Roman Army Museum near Greenhead, up onto the end of the very best section of the Hadrian’s Wall walk – we did a couple of miles along the top of Walltown Crags, just to give my wife a brief taste of the best of what the Wall offers in scenery and walking/scrambling. We’ve been together to Housesteads a few times, but that is very formalised and park-like compared with the Crags.

Foy the Younger on top of Walltown Crags
Sunday lunch at the Twice Brewed Inn was as good as usual (slow-roast pork belly and mustard mash with scallions, ginger ice cream to follow…), then the drive home along the switchback of the A68 was only slightly spoilt by the bikers. It was a nice, dry day, so the Big Boys had all been polishing their nice big bikes and were out in force. I don’t have a problem with bikers, most of them are sensible, thoughtful road users with a better than average understanding of the law and safety, but a proportion of them do seem to feel that somehow they are in some strange kind of war, flying heroic, doomed missions against enemy motorists. The thing that scares me is the possibility of coming round a bend and finding some numpty on a Kawasaki coming at me on my side of the road, well over the speed limit and too excited to think straight. Racing leathers and incontinence knickers. Jesus.

The A68 - hang on to your lunch
In my boyhood I travelled thousands of miles on the pillion of my dad’s bikes (which is why I walk like John Wayne), and I don’t wish to end my account of a super little trip on a grumpy note, but I do not find the sight of a line of bikers in my rear view mirror a comforting one – at least one of them will be forced (by peer pressure?) to squeeze past at the wrong moment, in a silly place. On Sunday there was a moment when one chap decided to overtake me without noticing that I was signalling to overtake some cyclists – a strange oversight for a brotherhood who spend their lives complaining about the lack of vision and thoughtlessness of others.

When I was learning to drive, back in the age of steam, when avoiding running down the man in front with the red flag was part of the knack, I was taught by an ex-Army instructor named Derek. One thing he said to me has always stuck:

The things which cause more accidents than anything else are surprises. If you do something unexpected – travel at the wrong speed for the conditions, turn without signalling, whatever – you are putting complete reliance on other road users’ ability to cope with the situation; if they don’t manage to cope, whether or not you think they should have, the fault is your own for causing the situation in the first place.

Driving lessons
Not exactly earth-shaking logic, but it occurs to me that a minority of the biker fraternity specialise in – take a pride in – doing things which are surprising. Bomb-burst manoeuvres where they overtake someone on both sides at once, overtaking on a blind corner despite double white lines, travelling as fast as physically possible all the time (and in my home area, which has some fine, fast, twisty roads, we also have inconveniences such as people who live here, horses, children on bicycles, deer, etc etc) – none of these help a great deal.

Here’s a chance for someone to score an equaliser by complaining (quite rightly) about the dreadful standard of car-driving on the British roads, which should serve to fuel the war and help greatly. I’m not sure, but I think that if large groups of young men gathered together on a nice Sunday in September, equipped with the most powerful cars they could afford, and travelled in convoy, as fast as possible, up and down the A68, they would stand a very fair chance of being arrested, incontinence knickers and all.

I hope that in the next few days I should get out my wargames table after a long lay-off – if nothing else, I am keen to take some photos to catalogue my ECW collection. With luck, I should have something more relevant to blog about.