|…it's off to work we go|
The prospect of getting back to some siege gaming (an activity which – strangely – was actually discouraged by my Peninsular War campaign) has got me sifting through the boxes of not-quite projects to get some more engineering and supply units finished off.
First hit was an easy one – a little group of British infantry pioneers, individually based. Right away, I have to admit that these are not really a siege-type unit – there will be proper sappers and miners for that later on, with the regulation brown bases. These fellows exist primarily because it seems like a good idea, and there is already in existence a French equivalent. Next admission is that I don’t actually have any rules to allow the pioneers to influence the game, but now that I have a unit for each side I am more likely to do something about that.
They are, as you will see, from Minifigs “interim” range – the one after the S-Range and before the current range of clinically obese chaps. There isn’t much available in metal in this scale. My French sapeurs are a mixture of Kennington and Falcata castings, which gives some variety of poses. I had intended to use S-Range Brits for the pioneers, but the S-Range pioneer is a disappointingly weedy looking sculpt, who looks as if he is struggling with his axe, and might have trouble sharpening a pencil. So it’s the intermediates – these are BN55, vintage circa 1974?
Since this is an informal collective (pool?) of bods from various regiments, they have mixed facings. If you want someone to lose that gate for you, or to help with building a bridge, these could be just the fellows. I regret that there are no beards on show, but the castings have no beards. I tried painting a beard on, but the effect was funnier than I had hoped.
Subject 2: Stephen Fry
Of late, I have given up trying to paint soldiers with the TV on. Wearing my painting glasses, I cannot see the TV, never mind work out what is on the screen, so these days I listen to music while painting. This weekend it has been the usual mixed bag – Mississippi John Hurt (brilliant, but after 20 minutes it all sounds the same, and is always in the same key, which doesn’t help), Buffalo Springfield (disappointingly dated, and not as good as I remembered), Herbie Hancock (excellent – I played River, which is an album of Joni Mitchell’s music, with guest vocals provided by numerous worthies, including Leonard Cohen and – erm – Joni Mitchell), Cassandra Wilson (terrific, and sexy in a slightly weird way), and a boxed set of Mendelssohn’s symphonies. Intuitively, it seems odd that Buffalo Springfield seemed more dated than Mendelssohn, but hey.
One of the things I did not watch on the TV was Stephen Fry’s QI show, which makes me decidedly uncomfortable. If you haven’t seen it, it consists of a sort of bogus panel game, which is entirely designed to perpetuate the legend that SF is the cleverest fellow on the planet. The panel members do not always sit easily in their role as stooges, but the show can be very amusing nonetheless.
It’s hard to put my finger on why Stephen’s public image grates with me. I actually quite like him – he is unpredictable and witty and frequently endearing. I just get very fed up with the constant force-feeding of his TV packaging as a National Treasure – fed up in the same way that I became fed up with the constant overexposure of David Jason and the late John Thaw (great talents, both) on British TV in past years.
No amount of TV is going to make me accept that Mr Fry is an intellectual, or a great scholar, or Oscar Wilde, or Dr Johnson. My attention is limited – I will find it more convenient if he remains a comedian, an occasional writer and – to be brutal – a TV personality. I am happy with him in that more digestible role.
I hasten to add that I have huge affection for the old Jeeves & Wooster series he did with Hugh Lawrie, which remains one of the very brightest gems of British television in my humble opinion. In fact, now I come to remember that I have an Amazon gift voucher which someone very kindly sent me for Christmas, I must have a look to see what boxed sets of DVDs are available for that series. While I’m at it, I should check out what there is of the old black-and-white Tony Hancock shows. You have to be careful with this – it would be awful to be confronted with the fact that – like Buffalo Springfield on Saturday – these shows are not as good as I think they were. Tricky stuff, nostalgia.
One of the very strangest bits of Stephen Fry was when they sent him on a trip to America – touring in a London cab. His visit to Chicago included an interview – in the cab, naturally – with Buddy Guy, the great urban blues legend. The idea of Fry empathizing with Buddy’s recollection of what life was like for an impoverished black musician in 1950s Chicago is bizarre. I suspect that they could have achieved a comparable amount of empathy by getting Stephen to travel round Chicago in his taxi with a grizzly bear – he is affable and enthusiastic and correct, but these worlds never quite collided, did they?