A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Elegance Creeps On - a little progress

Finally got the current batch of ADCs finished and based up. There is a bit of a risk with jobs which hang around - after a certain time (how long this is must vary from individual to individual, I guess) I sort of get used to the idea that they are not finished yet, and they can go into a state of limbo.

The replacement figure for Marshal Marmont [Art Miniaturen - henceforward AM]
 with his aides, who are both from Hagen
...and they leave as elegantly as they arrive

MS Foy [OOP NapoleoN casting] with his ADC [AM] 

Bertrand Clauzel with ADC [both AM]

And Antoine-Louis Popon, Baron Maucune [NapoleoN] with his new staff man [AM].
It is a source of regret to me that there are no known portraits of Maucune - I would
like to know more about the man. He was blamed (unfairly?) for the defeat at
Salamanca, and a couple of other items on his CV suggest that he may have been
very brave but more than a little dumb. It seems appropriate that my Maucune should
be flagrantly ignoring his ADC - reading and obeying orders seems to have been
something of a weak spot... 
Anyway, this is all about my new basing standard for general officers (or Leaders, as they are termed in C&C). I have a fair amount of rebasing to do, so first I have tackled the Armée de Portugal bit of my French army. Apart from the new Marshal Marmont, only the ADCs in these photos are new - the extant generals have just been rebased with their (regulation) staff allocation.

A bit of background here - my Armée de Portugal is based on Salamanca, and is represented by 3 overstrength infantry divisions (the real army had 8 understrength ones) - the cavalry allocation keeps the full establishment of 2 divisions, which suggests an over-provision of cavalry, but my cavalry are a bit weaker than the historic original.

I am unsure what to do with the cavalry division commanders - for this army, both divisions were headed up by a general de brigade, and in each case the gaffer was an ex-staff man, with no obvious cavalry background or affiliation. Accordingly, Messrs Boyer and Curto appear on my table in rather boring regulation dress - a bit lame for supposed sabreurs. I would prefer it if I had some rather more flamboyant figures to deploy - I'm working on it - but I suspect that they were not particularly interesting individuals. Pierre Boyer gained the nickname "Pierre the Cruel" because of his harsh treatment of guerrillas, and there is a nifty portrait sketch of him, with fancy braided jacket and whiskers. However, I would guess from the style of his goatee beard that this is a later picture, from his time in Algeria, where he maintained his reputation for shooting and torturing, probably generating more unrest than he cured.

Beyond that my French army continues with another force, which is a rather vague amalgam of the Armies of Catalonia, Centre and Midi - it's chief role is to fight the partidas, and give a place in the organisation to the more colourful Confederation and Italian troops, and King Joseph's own fine chaps (poor sods). I'll get to their generals shortly.

In the meantime, things are going well.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Hooptedoodle #272 - Not Much Here Either

With various disruptions caused by the continuing work of the house painter (and his frequent non-appearances) and other inconveniences, another fairly humdrum week has passed. My current batch of French ADCs is still not finished - any day now. Promise.

It occurred to me that I should trot out some routine listing of irrelevant stuff - just so you know I am still around - maybe it could be termed a miscellany. I shall limit this brief outpouring of trivia to two items - my editor will be pleased that I have restricted myself to the key house themes of Tragedy and The Social Whirl.

Topic 1 - RIP Steve.  I regret to say that Steve the Other Goldfish has passed away. Steve was never very lucky - he has had a long series of mysterious ailments, including problems with his eyes and some malfunction of his swim-bladder, and has been reputed to be on The Way Out for at least a couple of years. He got off to a bad start when he shared a fish tank with Jeff, who was much more robust and had a very bad attitude, and who spent some weeks roughing Steve up - sometimes biting him, sometimes merely knocking him about. Naturally we had to split them up, so since then we have had the dubious blessing of double maintenance, double overheads, and two separate tanks in different rooms.

Maybe, come to think of it, Steve was not so daft. He had a tank to himself, with all the fittings, and he was in a stress-free environment in which to perfect his one great talent, which was eating. However sickly he might have been, he grew far larger than we might have expected - thus, whatever problem Steve might be blighted with at any given moment, you could rely on the fact that there would be plenty of it.

He'd obviously been very unwell for the last few days, and we reached the point at which a strategic decision was required - the Contesse would place him in his little isolation tank, and we'd keep an eye on him. If he didn't buck up within a day or so, we would euthenise him - this being a politically-acceptable word, apparently, meaning snuff. [Quick aside, I am pleased, in an unfocused and probably irritating way, that "euthenise" and "euphemise" are such similar words - possibly we have the makings of an unusually pretentious and pointless joke here - I'll leave it with you.]

Right then - today's interesting field of research: how do you put your goldfish out of his misery, and still be able to live with yourself afterwards? After some online reading, our favoured suggestion was as follows (don't ever say this blog does not address the problems of real life):

(1) Add some drops of clove-oil to the water - this will put Goldie to sleep.

(2) After some minutes, add some vodka - this will kill him in his sleep. Painless. Humane.

The Contesse went off to buy the necessary supplies - we have neither of these exotic poisons in our storehouse. In passing, clove-oil is quite interesting - it has a long-held folklore role as a remedy for toothache, which as far as I'm concerned is very debatable - bollocks, in fact. Maybe killing goldfish is what it is really intended for, and the dental fallacy is just a cover story for the kids. Vodka? Hmmm. At least we can comfort ourselves that the little fellow will end his days free from toothache, and blitzed out of his tiny skull.

While she was out buying supplies, Steve, obligingly and astonishingly, did the one sensible thing he ever managed in a lifetime - he died peacefully, without assistance. Good for him. I buried him up in the woods behind the house this afternoon - without ceremony. Naturally we wish him luck on his way into the darkness, but we could hardly have laid on any celebration of his life - I'm not sure how much he noticed of it, and it was mostly dismal.

If I detect even the slightest whiff of clove-oil in my bath in the near future, I shall immediately be on my guard.

Topic 2 - Sylvia. On Saturday night I was at a birthday party - quite a big bash, really - mostly arty, cultured people - all very civilised - not my usual circles at all. While there, I bumped into Sylvia, whom I have known for over 30 years, now I come to work it out. A good egg, Sylvia, very loud and always cheerful, and eternally opinionated. Good value, in fact, though you have to cope with the fact that her conversation is mostly along the lines that her family are the wealthiest, happiest, prettiest and most successful people who ever lived. That's all OK - I think it is only right that the Sylvias of this world should be provided, to keep us humble, and to remind us of how we would like to have been, if only.

On Saturday, Sylvia was not well pleased. She is involved in a small circle of ladies who take it in turns to treat each other to cultural outings - one detects a slight edge of competition. Since it had been Sylvia's turn, she had been encouraged to get tickets for something uplifting in our local arts and music festival, which has been on recently. It was suggested that there was a very nice Italian operetta show which would be suitable, and, in a bit of a rush, she obtained very expensive tickets for it.

We may come up with any number of reasons or excuses, but it is obviously an easy mistake to make if you are short of time to check your facts; whatever, having duly turned up at the show in their concert-going finery, Sylvia and her friends now know for certain that The Rezillos are not an operetta at all, but an ageing punk band, and not to their taste at all. It would be mean-spirited to find this amusing, of course, but I feel that my efforts to keep a straight face and not choke on my vegetarian paella on Saturday earned me the right to enjoy a brief chortle now. In fact, I may run a bath, add some vodka, climb in and roar with [ignorant, common] laughter.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Hooptedoodle #271 - McKeown's Law of Collecting

We've discussed this stuff before, but I was rather taken by McKeown's Law, which comes in 3 parts. Though this law originates in the world of camera enthusiasts and collectors, it definitely has wider application. The picture is borrowed, shamelessly and without permission, from the excellent blog of Arnhem Jim, to set a context. If you have seen the Law before, here it is again - smile and move on.

McKeown's Law of Collecting 
1) The price of an antique or collectable is entirely dependant upon the moods of the buyer and seller at the time of the transaction.
2) If you pass up the chance to buy an item you really want, you will never have that chance again.

3) If you buy an item because you know that you will never have that chance again, a better example of the same item will be offered to you a week later for a much lower price!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Hooptedoodle #270 - The Sock Cull

Time for another post about socks, I think. [No, no - terribly sorry, vicar - I said socks.]

Some time ago I published a lament about the state of modern socks. It was heartfelt (if that is an appropriate phrase) - I had increasing problems with shrinkage of the ribbing tops of socks, which tended to compress my lower calves (on occasions my lower legs would develop an ominous, waisted, hour-glass shape which I would prefer not to dwell upon, but you will appreciate this is far from ideal.

Bad Guys - and there's masses of them - they are GOING AWAY
The Contesse tried valiantly to obtain socks for me which were comfortable - with little success. Even when we avoided certain brands which we have grown to distrust, I regularly ended the day with sore swollen ankles and calf muscles. Ah, I hear you say - it is not the socks, it's your circulation - it is the ancient veins, the game pie, the chips, the beer, the Armagnac, the excessive salt, etc etc.

Not so. One cannot hold off the ravages of field rations and tempus fugit forever, of course, but the change is mostly in the socks themselves.  

Almost a year ago, we went on holiday to Mayrhofen, in the Zillertal, Austria. It was a good holiday anyway, but one unexpected bonus was that one day I picked up a pack of cheap socks in the Spar supermarket in the village - just off-the-shelf jobs to help out with the demands of hillwalking - and they were a revelation. If I'd fully appreciated them in time, I'd have bought a load more before we came home.

They are comfortable, they do not strangle my legs - they are terrific. They are, I believe, how I remember socks used to feel. Is it possible that Austrians just expect their socks to be comfortable? Is it possible that Mike Ash***'s crusade to to buy up reputable brands and make everything cheap and nasty has not yet reached the Tyrol? The questions, of course, are rhetorical, but one wonders.

Good Guys - the first of the "diabetic" socks [L] and one of the Austrian
cheapo pairs from SPAR [R]
Since then, a further discovery for me has been a whole new world of special comfortable socks - some of them made with bamboo fibre (which sounds faddy, but is OK), some of them marketed as "diabetic socks", which is new to me but I'm sure well known to people who need them. The Contesse has done admirable research in this field, and I am well pleased with the new arrivals.

Thus far I am still feeling my way - some of these are about £8 a pair, which is a bit steep by my usual standards, but we are discovering cheaper ones - the choice of colours is not all it might be, maybe. There are also hiking socks of the same type. Better and better.

This morning's delivery...

Just as an aside - how would you feel about marketing black socks badged "SS"?
A further shipment of the "gentle" socks arrived this morning, so I have had a quick look in the chest of drawers and have emptied out the old socks - and there are dozens of pairs. I shall reduce the stock to about 4 pairs of the conventional socks, and replace them with the new comfortable ones. Perhaps we'll recycle the rejects - they can go to any needy people who have very thin ankles, or maybe they can just go on the tip.  Either way, they are going.

That's worth a glass of wine with my supper, I think.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Replacement Marshal Marmont

Still on the regulation Tesco milk bottle top, and with his varnish still a little too shiny (it should calm down overnight), here's my new figure of Auguste Marmont, ready for basing. This is a recent Art Miniaturen figure - very nice sculpt - I can't remember who the casting was supposed to be - maybe Rapp - or it could be Berthier. Whatever, it is now Augie Marmont, one of the classic baddies of Napoleonic France. Offhand, I can only think of Bernadotte and maybe Talleyrand who would rate more boos and hisses in the Pantomime of the Emperor. [Oh, yes they would.]

Apart from having a remarkably bad day at Salamanca, and having had the sense to place the interests of his nation above those of his megalomaniac boss at the siege of Paris in 1814, Marshal Marmont fought well throughout his career, and he was also an exceptional administrator. I feel rather guilty about his compromised reputation - it is not helped by my own (MS Foy's) hatchet job on his standing as a general in my (Foy's) own history of the War in the Peninsular. No matter - history has made its judgement. This little metal version of Auguste looks confident enough. He can join his first ADC, and the second ADC will be along in a day or two.

The old Marmont figure in my collection will be recycled and will become Marshal Soult (also Art Miniaturen, the casting was always supposed to be Soult anyway), and I have something rather fancy in the way of an ADC lined up for that particular group. That will be a bit later. I attach a splendid, borrowed photo of a large figure of Marshal Soult's ADC, which has nothing at all to do with me, just to give an idea - you may imagine what my Old School attempt at painting a mounted 20mm version might be like, but you may feel free to admire my optimism...

Louis Brun de Villeret, Soult's ADC in Spain