Sunday, 8 April 2012
The Matchstick Cathedral
When I was a kid I read a short story - it may be well-known, I can't remember much about it. A mysterious man takes a room in an apartment block in Paris, and keeps very much to himself. The concierge, true to her trade, lets herself into his room on one of his rare days out, and finds that he is building a colossal matchstick model of Notre Dame cathedral - in the most astounding detail. She becomes fascinated, and keeps checking on its progress when he is away. She wonders what he will do when it is complete.
Eventually, of course, it is complete and the man disappears, and in a week or two the police are called in. They never find him. As the detective is locking up for the last time, he has a final, long look at the model - through the tracery windows he looks at the tiny pews, rows and rows of them, the statuary, the shrines. If it were not impossible, he could swear that he can see a tiny figure walking about in the dark interior. Shaking his head, the policeman turns out the light and locks the door as he leaves.
That story always bothered me a bit. When I was eleven or so I used to lie next to my model railway and imagine whiat it would be like to live in the little houses next to the line. One thing is for sure - the standard of factory painting on Hornby Dublo passengers and railway personnel would have made them pretty nightmarish companions! The whole idea of literally disappearing into one's obsession is interesting, I guess.
This morning, apart from the sounds of triumph as my young son gradually found the hidden chocolate Easter eggs around the house, there was a sudden roar of laughter from me as I printed off a correctly-sized flag for one of my new Spanish guerrilla units.
There was a posting here some weeks ago in which I was experimenting with antique fonts to get flags like this exactly right. I produced one such this morning, loosely based on some known real examples, gave it a tasty little skull-&-crossbones device and a textured overspray to make it look a bit mucky. Here is a large view of it - the green border, as ever with my flags, is not part of the design - it is simply added to make it possible to cut out a white flag from white paper!
I was really pleased with the effect, and I printed off a 1/72 scale copy to see how it looked. If I print the whole image so it is 13mm high, it trims down to about 10mm high, which is what I wanted. It was probably obvious all along, gentlemen, but of course you cannot read the flag at this size - almost any font at all would have done. No-one will ever be able to tell how good it might be.
Except the little man inside the matchstick cathedral, of course.
I have now completed another 6 little units of guerrilleros - they do not have their flags yet, or their proper battlefield sabots, but they turned out fine. There are a couple of interlopers from HaT and Kennington, to make up the numbers, but otherwise these are all the reissued Falcata figures. The mixture I have here probably is an impossible amalgam of different regional types who would never have spoken to each other, never mind fought together, but they look suitably rough and tough. The leader illustrated below has a certain humorous quality - come to think of it, that is not a common feature of my armies. You may spot some chaps above who are wearing regular army style uniforms - according to Charles Esdaile's Fighting Napoleon, it was commonplace for men to desert from the regulars or militia to join the partidas - the pay was frequently better, and the looting was definitely better!