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

Wednesday 31 October 2012

ECW - And Still They Come

Another two units of foot ready for action - here are (in the red) Sir Thomas Tyldesley's Regiment [R] and John Booth's Regiment [P]. Just for a change, the Hinton Hunt unit are the Royalists this time, the Parlies being (mostly) Les Higgins.

I find that I'm still doggedly making sure that the two armies build up at the same pace - it occurred to me today that it must be important for some reason. Since I am still some way short of being able to stage an actual battle, I'm not sure why I am being so careful to keep everything in step. Not to worry - I'm happy with progress, which continues to be steady rather than dramatic.

I now have six units of foot ready (3 each, naturally) and two of cavalry (even split, again), plus a few general officers. There are another two units of horse and two more of foot ready for painting, so I guess the lead mountain must be getting smaller.

My traditional terminology - "Ready to go in The Cupboard" as a euphemism for "Ready to Fight" - is not applicable to my ECW troops, since they do not live in The Cupboard - they are kept in a series of nice, new, pink box files!

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Spanish Army - New Commander

Hot from the much-delayed parcel of Falcata figures, here - at last - is the Commander of my Nationalist "4th Army" for the Peninsular War. This is Mariscal de Campo Don Pedro Agostin Giron, Marquis de las Amarilas, Duque de Ahumada (1778–1842), accompanied by his trusty chief of staff, Colonel Sainz.

Giron was a competent, rather than exceptional leader, but the fact that General Castaños, the victor of Bailen, was his uncle must have been a big plus on his CV.

The tasteful yellow border to the base identifies the Spanish commander - house rules...

Monday 29 October 2012

Falcata - 25th May Order Arrived

Today the FedEx man brought the Falcata figures I ordered in May. The figures received are close enough to my original order for me to be happy with them. I have enough new figures for some more units of Spanish Peninsular War milicias/voluntarios, and some Spanish general officers - no doubt some pictures will appear here at some point.

I shall now remove all previous hostile postings on the subject of this order, as promised, but I urge anyone outside Spain who wishes to purchase Falcata figures to buy them from the forthcoming UK outlet (details will be posted here when available), not direct from Madrid.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

ECW - More Cavalry

More mounted recruits, once again splendidly painted by Lee. These are Parliamentarians - William Brereton's Cheshire Horse - figures are Kennington/SHQ. Having varnished and based them, I made a splendid job of the flag, then found to my disgust that I had fitted it upside down, so I printed another and corrected things - though in my heart I will always know that I didn't make quite such an accurate job of the second attempt...

Not to worry - as my old mate Allan Gallacher used to say, the deliberate error keeps away the Evil Eye. Come to think of it, I never did understand what he was on about.

Monday 22 October 2012

Hooptedoodle #69 - Edelweiss

Brand new this morning...

On last year's Austrian holiday, we bought some packets of Edelweiss seeds (leontopodium alpinum) in a gift shop, along with some picture calendars, a silly hat, a cuddly-toy marmot* in lederhosen, etc - as one does on holiday.

We knew the seeds wouldn't grow, so promptly forgot about them. However, this Spring, Mme La Comptesse found them in a drawer (I was going to say "unearthed", but I'm a stickler for accuracy) and reasoned that a plant which is famous for growing at sub-zero temperatures, in one of the most harsh winter climates Europe has to offer, might just make it in Scotland.

Accordingly, seeds were put into little pots and carefully nurtured in the attic bedroom, then the seedlings were moved to a coldframe, and eventually the strongest of the baby plants were planted out. I was highly sceptical about the entire operation, and tried (in my miserable way) to do a bit of gentle expectation management.

Today, despite the efforts of foraging deer and the wettest Summer on record, we have a bloom! Possibly it is partly because of the wettest Summer - not sure how that works - but it looks healthy.

To celebrate this event, I had a look on YouTube - confident that the song Edelweiss must have some of the most toe-curling performances imaginable - so that we could all sing along nicely (sit up straight at the back, please). I briefly considered a heartwarming duet version by John Denver and Julie Andrews, but it was so cute that I had to be dragged out of the office feet first before I suffocated. I also was tempted by this clip, which is getting away from the point a bit but is crass enough to be of interest, but I eventually picked the Hutterer sisters, Sigrid & Marina, with this version - faultlessly sincere, wholesome and - well, just really nice.

If you find you are not singing along, then you should be ashamed.

*By the way - earlier reference to marmots reminds me that I now know quite a lot about them, since this is what Google thinks I meant when I search for information about Marshal Marmont. And, yes - since you wanted to know - the cuddly-toy marmot does squeak when you squeeze it, but - surprisingly - not when you hit it with a chair.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Hooptedoodle #68 - Funny Couple of Days, Really

In which we get some high-quality free scran and visit the Highlands briefly, and Martina loses it completely in Inverness

On Wednesday evening we went into Edinburgh to have our scheduled prize meal at the expense of the Sunday Times, which I mentioned previously. The restaurant we had selected (from two on the list for Edinburgh) was The Honours, in North Castle Street. I had never visited the place before, though I used to be an occasional customer of Cosmo’s, which occupied the same premises back in my days of business lunches.

The Honours was opened last year by Martin Wishart, who is a Michelin-rated Edinburgh chef and restaurateur, and is really rather outside the range of places we would normally patronise, so it was a delightful treat for all sorts of reasons.

I had a starter from the day’s specials whose name I could not possibly remember, but it was a very light chowder of artichokes and seared scallops, frothed cappuccino-style and finished with almonds and grated tartufo bianco, while Mme la Comptesse had classic smoked salmon. I managed to squeeze in a small pasta course – buttered tagliatelle with morels and roasted garlic – and then we shared the Chateaubriand, which arrived complete with French fries cooked in duck fat. Madame was driving, so I was the only one drinking – ordering wines by the glass does have some advantages for sight-seeing the wine list. I had a Jurancon Sec (2010 Clos Lapeyre - very nice) with my starter, and an excellent (and quite inexpensive) Cotes du Ventoux (2011 Domaine Perrin) with the steak.

My wife had a crème brulée to finish and I had the cheese platter – not least so that I could have a second glass of the Ventoux. All absolutely first rate – superb quality and service. We didn’t get close to our permitted £250 budget, but we must have spent about half of that, so my thanks to Mr Wishart and to the Sunday Times for making it possible (and to my wife, of course, for entering the competition!). If you are in Edinburgh and are feeling especially affluent, I would recommend the place without hesitation.

Only slightly odd note was introduced by an American lady at the next table, who insisted that the rack of lamb, which the menu noted was only available for two people, should be served as a half portion for her – the assumption being, presumably, that Mr Wishart had made a mistake about this or else that the restaurant would find another customer prepared to volunteer for the other half. After a lengthy harangue, of course, she got her half rack and then proceeded to complain about it. Before she left, the manager apologised unreservedly to her – I guess for having the temerity to open a restaurant in the first place. Why do people do this? – do they feel it makes them appear important, or ”used to better”, or specially knowledgeable?

Great evening, anyway. Unaccustomed as one is.

On Thursday we drove up to the Highlands, partly to fit in a short break at the end of my son’s half-term hols and partly to visit the new Visitor Centre at the Culloden battlefield. Since it is (finally) running well, we took my Mitsubishi truck – it is rather thirsty, but well suited for getting out of mud.

Weather for our run was dull but dry. We went over the Forth Bridge, then up the M90 and A9 as far as Dalwhinnie, then across to the West to Spean Bridge (where we stopped to take a look at the Commando memorial), and finally up the Great Glen, past Lochs Lochy and Oich to Fort Augustus. We spent a little time exploring the locks on the Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus – always fascinating – which work like staircases to get the boats up and down to cope with the different water levels in (in this case) Loch Oich and Loch Ness.

We had a slightly bad break – this time of year, a lot of the guesthouses in the Highlands have closed for the Winter – my B&B of choice was not available, but I had booked a decent-looking place online which offered a family room. In reality it was clean but a little disappointing – the real bad news was that our landlady’s very enthusiastic Full Scottish fried breakfast on Friday morning gave us all mild food poisoning which is still lingering, which was not a positive contribution to the trip. We visited a cheery Free House pub on the Thursday evening (before the condemned bacon episode) which had good bar food, but a disappointingly standardised range of beers (Stella, John Smith’s, freezing cold Guinness, draught cider...). The only thing I fancied was Belhaven’s Export, which is brewed 10 miles down the road from my home, at Dunbar. Decent enough pint, but I had hoped we would get something more interesting than that. Ach well. Here’s some pics of our run up, and of Fort Augustus.

Friday was the day to visit Culloden. Pouring rain. Not to worry – this is Scotland, after all, so might as well see it at its best. We drove the length of Loch Ness, negotiated downtown Inverness, and got to Culloden without problem, where I got my first sight of the new Visitor Centre. Impressive. Big. Expensive.

I’ve been to Culloden a number of times before. As a kid, I remember being bewildered by all these clan memorial stones hidden in the middle of a forest – the field was deliberately planted with trees in the late 18th Century so that it could not be preserved as a Jacobite shrine. I think they cut down the trees and restored things a good bit around 1970 or so. Last time I was there (I am surprised to recall) was maybe 20 years ago, when the previous Visitor Centre was open, and I was very favourably impressed at that time. Guided tours were provided. A young man in appropriate Jacobite attire marched a party of visitors around the battlefield – we walked the line of the Highlanders’ charge, stood in the Government lines with Barrell’s and Munro’s regiments – the lot. It was nicely done – any children in the party were equipped with wooden swords and targes and recruited to keep the grown-ups in order. The guide was personable and knew his stuff, and could answer any questions you might have. I have always had a hankering to go back.

Well, the world has moved on. The new Centre is superbly laid out. The exhibits are terrific, and the timeline format usefully explained a few things I had never fully understood before – for example, I had never realised the wider context in which Prince Charles’ rebellion was set – just why the Hanoverian English monarchy were so concerned about it. I realise that I should have, but I had never been aware that Charles originally intended to invade a couple of years earlier with full support from the French army, and that his eventual effort was an attempt to go it alone, since the French had given up on the idea (though they lent him some troops, of course).

We saw a couple of excellent little presentations on the nature and weaponry of the armies – very well done. If we’d known, what we really should have done was arrange to get there for 11am so that we could join the once-a-day guided battlefield walk with an actual human guide.

First major problem on Friday was the rotten weather, but we had sort of prepared for that. Second problem was the PDAs they hand out to visitors. On the face of it, this should work well – the machines play you a structured commentary, cued (and this is the clever bit) by GPS – when you arrive at the next key location, the PDA chimes in with the next bit of the commentary. Very good. They do instruct you when you are given the machine that you have to stand still until each section has finished – if you keep walking things will get mixed up. What they do not tell you is that if you touch the screen to activate the sections of copious back-up information – as you are encouraged to do in the commentary – the PDA gets confused.

My wife’s machine became terminally mixed up quite quickly, and after a respectable time she gave up on walking around in the rain and the mud and retired to the nice warm Centre.

Being more grumpily determined, I walked back to the starting point and started the tour again – my son and I then studiously avoided the extra information buttons and stuck with the basic script. And it conked out again. One of the touch fields on the PDA screen is WHERE AM I? At one point we were out beyond the big monument, by the clan graves, but both our PDAs showed us as being some distance away, behind the government lines. Aha. So that’s why it didn’t work properly – the GPS system was on the blink.

At that point we, too, had had enough of the weather, and I was beginning to suffer from the bacon problem, so we withdrew from the field. To anyone who intends to visit the place, I would recommend it wholeheartedly, but take plenty of money with you, and make sure you arrive before 11am in good weather. I have very few photos of our visit, sadly, because it was so wet, but the Well of the Dead kind of sums up the mood of the day.

And the National Trust for Scotland seem to have their own alternative
arithmetic – if you can explain this to me, I’d be obliged.

The strange business with the GPS, unbelievably, had an echo on the way back to Fort Augustus, which leads us to wonder whether there is something unusual about the Inverness area.

My SatNav is a Garmin Nuvi250 (or something) which is a few years old now, but we regularly refresh the map data and it has never let us down. There are two ways from Inverness to Fort Augustus – one is a single track road along the south shore of Loch Ness, one is the A82 along the northern shore – the main road to Fort William – which is the one we wanted. I decided to use the machine to guide us through the one-way system in Inverness, and – to make sure we got the right road out – asked for directions to Drumnadrochit (no, really) which is definitely on the A82.

This SatNav has a very nice young lady’s voice – she is always very patient with us, invariably correct, and doesn’t get at all irritated or petulant if we ignore her instructions. We call her Martina – short for Martina Satnavrilova. Sorry about that, but that’s what she is called.

Anyway – the impossible happened. Martina completely lost the plot in the centre of Inverness. We traced the same back-street loop twice before I decided to ignore her directions to do it again, and at one point we were stopped at some lights when we witnessed something very like a brainstorm. A bewildering series of garbled instructions came out in quick succession – you could see the illuminated route changing like a crazy cartoon on the display – then she subsided into a disconsolate “Recalculating – recalculating – recalculating – recalculating...” until I switched off – out of pity, really. It isn’t pleasant to see one’s friends in trouble.

We adopted the older method of peering through the rain and spotting signs for the A82, and got out of town safely. Next time we risked the SatNav, of course, it worked flawlessly, and once again spoke with great confidence and authority – but our relationship may never be the same again. We have seen frailty. Feet of clay. Not exactly weeping, but something close.

Makes me wonder, though, whether there was a problem with satellite communications in the Inverness area on Friday. I guess the Duke of Cumberland just used maps and compasses and stuff, back in his day. 

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Aaargh! - Blogger Black Hole...

Something strange has happened tonight. I don't spend a lot of time looking at my blog stats, but my total hits count suddenly dropped from 99,600-odd to 34, which seems a bit extreme, and some of the blog features are behaving unpredictably.

Perhaps it will be better tomorrow. Maybe it's in a bad mood. We have to have faith in something.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

ECW - Just One More...

I need to get the painting desk returned to its alternative role of living room bureau, so have been tidying up and putting the pots away. I took the opportunity - since it might be the last for a week or more - to paint another  general. Simplest paint job I've done in years, but I really like this little figure, which I was first introduced to by Clive a couple of years ago.

This is REW57, Hinton Hunt's super little Puritan Roundhead General on Foot. Could it be that old Marcus had a sense of humour after all? There will not be a lot of smiling in this man's army, thank you very much...

Dressed to kill - but the blackened armour top would be a nightmare in the sun, and the bucket-top boots are a potential disaster in heavy rain (even when turned down at the knee for such conditions). Fashions change, but, if I was presenting myself as a hard case, I'm not sure I'd put a cake doily around my neck.

However, I'm not going to tell him myself.

I don't know yet how - or if - I might use generals on foot. It makes sense that a staff group would be on foot, but I'm not comfortable with the idea of a brigadier - even an infantry one - marching in with his men. Maybe a held horse? Maybe a standard bearer, or an aide? I'll think about it. He can stay on the bottle top until I have a better idea how to base him.

Monday 15 October 2012

ECW - High-Ups #3

Let’s be honest about this – I am not unbiased. My liking for the Les Higgins ECW range is of many years’ standing, and the fact that they are available again in unlimited quantities (steady...) is probably the main reason for my opting for 20mm for this period – a choice which, let’s face it, is a lot less convenient than 15mm or 28mm would have been (or 6mm, as I am coming to realise).

Anyway, here is one of the two available Higgins senior officers – mounted on a Higgins horse, as promised. I don’t like Higgins horses all that much – I will certainly use quite a few, but I have a strong fancy for using SHQ horses as a standard default for mounted figures of any make (which is likely to include Tumbling Dice as well). If there is one thing calculated to help make differing ranges of cavalry figures look the same size, it is mounting them on the same horses. Expect, then, to see some Higgins cavalry on SHQ horses at some point.

But the point of this first batch of generals has been to compare and cross-reference men-on-horses as supplied by the various manufacturers, to get a feel for the possibilities without too much fudging. So let’s be appropriately critical of Higgins for a second. The horse is – well, OK. The figure of the officer is lovely – Les H was a sculptor, a real artist, and a proportion of his experience had been in the world of trophies and monumental figurines – thereby hangs a common criticism. His wargame figure poses are elegant, but stiff and without vigour. Lovely sculpting, a machine-quality finish which surpassed anything around at the time (circa 1970), but there is little attempt at natural animation, and a good number of the mounted poses have their weapon arms stuck out awkwardly, sideways, just to simplify the mould-joins for casting.

This little man is handsome, and is anatomically the most authentic of the three, but he lacks character. I guess there’s no answer to this. If I were a 28mm collector, I’d be able to buy bespoke castings for a whole crowd of named celebrities, so I guess this is all part of the consequence of going with 20mm.

OK then – I’m happy enough. The last picture from this episode is to show what I set out to prove in the first place – that three figures from three different manufacturers, each on the correct horse from the corresponding range, are fine together. Painted up, they are all happily and comfortably 20mm brothers – they can exist in the same world and on the same tabletop without awkwardness. The variety of style, indeed, becomes a strength.  

Sunday 14 October 2012

ECW - High-Ups #2

More of the same - this time Hinton Hunt's Royalist general figure. Here you see Sir Michael Earnley telling his men exactly where he wants the picnic lunch set out.

I am very fond of this classic little casting - I always have been. There is something about the styling and the poise that always puts me in mind of Alec Guinness as Charles I in the Cromwell movie - I can almost hear that Prime of Miss Jean Brodie accent. As ever, I find the Hintons hard to paint well - items like shoulder belts are kind of implied rather than obvious in the casting - too subtle for me? - but this chap is pleasing.

Overall, I'm not sure. I have a few HH general officer figures to paint, including the Roundhead one in the helmet. The figures are nice enough, but maybe a little bland - it's a personal thing (as always), but I like my generals to be definite personalities. And then there's the thing with Marcus Hinton's little legs...

Good so far - the Higgins chap is next.

ECW - High-Ups #1

It's half term at my son's school, so we have some plans to get away, and spend a couple of days visiting Loch Ness and Culloden. The plans are a bit vague - well, not so much vague as flexible. Even people with no real experience of Scotland will realise that such activities as these are heavily dependant on the weather. The latest idea is that, since the short-term forecast is iffy, and - more specifically - since the recent deluge is likely to have reduced the entire Highland area to a vast bog, we will go later in the week.

I thought I would take advantage of the spare time by painting a couple of general officers for the ECW. Some serious work has gone into planning for the production of my units of foot and horse, and - predictably - the easier bits, the generals and the artillery, which can be picked off in odd moments, have fallen behind.

Since this is all new to me, the first few such figures are a bit of a learning exercise. I decided to produce one test figure from each of the 3 principal brands of figure - Les Higgins, Hinton Hunt and Kennington/SHQ. Further, for this first series I am going to mount each figure on the "correct" (i.e. the same) make of horse, just to get the idea. Later, the intention is to mix and match pretty freely in this respect.

The first figure is the SHQ one - this is a fairly routine cavalry officer from the range, but he paints up well as a High Up. So here is Sir William Brereton, looking suitably belligerent. SHQ are relatively modern castings, with crisp detail, and are easy to paint, though the horses can require a lot of cleaning up first. My experience with Kennington Napoleonics taught me that their figures vary within the range in both height and stature, and that some have overscale hands, but the ECW cavalry are a superior breed all round. They are a very acceptable size match with the older 20mm ranges, though the infantry are a little chunkier. The swords are a bit sturdier than Higgins' ones, but that is not a bad thing for wargames figures.

Quite pleased with this - spare time permitting, some more should appear shortly.

Thursday 11 October 2012

ECW - They Called Her Babylon

Once again, I am grateful to Iain Mac, who is currently operating this blog by remote control. Iain very kindly pointed me towards this clip of Steel-Eye Span performing They Called Her Babylon, which is a song about the self-same siege of Lathom House which I referred to in the comments to the previous post. The heroine of the piece is Lady Derby, a large French lady of terrifyingly feisty spirit, who was resident in the house during the "Leaguer" and showed herself to be a much stronger character than her absent husband. Lathom House is believed to have stood on the site of the Pilkington works near Ormskirk. There is a little poetic licence in the lyric – the defenders did a stout job, no doubt, but the siege failed mostly because of lack of ordnance and suboptimal application on the part of the parliament boys, who retired rather gratefully when it was heard that Rupert was on his way to relieve the siege.

Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby
(1599–1664), born Charlotte de La Trémoille

Fairfax quit the siege rather early – when it became obvious that the defenders had more artillery than he had, and was dismissive of the whole episode afterwards. Alexander Rigby was left in charge, and a more dispirited commander it is difficult to imagine. He was further handicapped by the fact that many of his men were provided by militia units belonging to local towns – these men had little motivation to start with, and had to be constantly replaced as secondments were called back in.

Lathom House, as it was

A sortie by the defenders captures the solitary mortar at Lathom 

Lady Derby is a noble member of that legion of strong-minded ladies over the centuries – from Boudicca to Margaret Thatcher – who must be largely responsible for the amount of time men spend in potting sheds, or playing darts in the local pub. Or walking in the hills. Or wargaming.

Also following on from the previous comments, on the subject of hardship inflicted on non-combatants, here is a piece on exactly that subject. This is lifted, humbly but without apology, from Dr Stephen Bull’s fine A General Plague of Madness – TheCivil Wars in Lancashire 1640-1660 – it is a great book – I recommend you buy it if you have any interest in the period. 

Rupert left Oxford at the head of some cavalry on 5 May 1644. At Shrewsbury he was joined by about 8000 horse and foot, including an Irish contingent under Henry Tillier. On 16 May the royalist army advanced northwards, making first for Whitchurch, as one parliamentarian account noted, ‘plundering most fearfully all along, and especially taking men and horses’. Some Cheshire men who gave up their goods and animals to Rupert were doubly cursed, being royalist supporters already forced to hand over much of their property to parliament. William Davenport of Bramhall was a particularly good example of this double jeopardy. Part of Sir William Brereton’s [parliament] cavalry had visited him in early 1643, taking away not only eight muskets, eight sets of pikeman’s armour but other equipment to the value of £40, plus £7 in cash. Thereafter he had to make regular payments to help support the Nantwich garrison and various ‘loans’. On New Years Day 1644 Captain Francis Duckenfield and other parliament men had returned to clear out most of his horses, and various other things including a drum. Then, five months later, Rupert’s army came as something of a final insult:

‘ whom I lost better than a hundred pounds in linens and other goods at Milesend, besides the rifling and pulling in pieces of my house. By them and my Lord Goring’s army I lost eight horses, and besides victuals and other provision they ate me three score bushels of oats. No sooner was the Prince gone but Stanley’s cornet, one Lely, and twenty of his troop hastened their return to plunder me of my horses which the Prince had left me.’

Parliamentary sequestrators would come again just a couple of months later.

In case you think you are having a bad time this year, please spare a thought for William Davenport.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

ECW - The Study of Up North

As my ECW armies gain a little momentum, the homework continues. Starting from a position of pretty all-encompassing ignorance, I am getting up to speed a little on the history of the wars in my chosen (backwater?) theatre of Lancashire (spreading a little into Cheshire, North Wales, Yorkshire and Cumberland). I am enjoying the books I have to hand, which have all been interesting and useful.

The pick of the bunch - and this is no criticism of the rest, is Stephen Bull's super A General Plague of Madness - The Civil Wars in Lancashire 1640-1660. This is one of the very best history books of any type I have read for a while - it is informative at all sorts of levels, copiously (and relevantly) illustrated, relatively free of axes grinding (Dr Bull manages to embrace new knowledge without any unseemly point-scoring against earlier writers) and - wonder of wonders - it is beautifully written. For those of us who find the stylistic differences between CV Wedgwood (for example) and some of the Osprey brigade (for example) a bit uncomfortable, here is a welcome ray of sunshine. Wholeheartedly recommended.

While Googling some obscure aspect of the Civil War recently, I stumbled across a wargame blog devoted to the war in exactly the same area as the one I have decided to focus on. In my fumbling excitement, I failed to bookmark it properly, and now I can't find it again. This weekend, one of my projects will be to find it - if anyone has any clues, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

Sunday 7 October 2012

ECW - Snip Snip

Very short post this afternoon. I thought I would come clean about another instance of an unspeakable practice - converting Hinton Hunt figures. The particular case in point is the ECW standard bearer.

I have never really cared for HH standard bearers with their cast flags - it's a personal thing. Mostly this is because I am not a good enough painter to paint a pleasing flag (I had some disastrous, embarrassing failures with ACW Union flags in my formative years), but it's also because the figure is very top-heavy, and has an inconveniently extended base, which impacts on unit spacings. So I snips em, don't I?

I remove the flag, shorten his base, clean up his shoulder and remodel the brim of his hat (the cast flag is integral with the hat), then drill out the bearer's hand and superglue a metal pole in place and the job is done. I've done this enough times now to be getting comfortable and quick with it, and I'm pleased with the results (although it will certainly earn me black marks in the Great Book of Hinton).

The example shown here is the Royalist CEW2, before and after, but the procedure is exactly the same for the Parliamentarian REW2. All complaints to Chateau Foy, please, on used £10 notes.

Hooptedoodle #67 - Hardboard

Once, years ago, when I was both more stupid and more vigorous than I am now, I decided to make a large, wall-mounted display cabinet with sliding glass doors. It was not going to be a top-quality job, but it was probably a brave effort.

My cabinet needed a hardboard back, and it was important that this back board should be accurately cut and have clean edges. Hardboard was regularly used in those days to do the jobs that thin MDF sheet does now, and it was awful stuff to cut cleanly. I really did not fancy my chances of making a decent job of the back board with the Stone Age tools I had available – this one-piece backboard was going to be around five feet wide and about 3-and-a-half feet high. You may, if you wish, share the vision I had of trying to measure and cut a flexible board of this size with a hand saw, supported on a row of dining chairs or something equally useless.

I had a great idea, though. I phoned up my local DIY store, and spoke to a very nice girl, who promised that they would cut a sheet to the exact dimensions I specified, with perfect right-angle corners and crisp edges, and would deliver it to my house in a few days. Excellent. My measurements, needless to say, were correct to a sixteenth of an inch, and the girl took a careful note of them and read them back to me. She explained to me that they had recently started doing all measurements in millimetres, but there was no problem, since they would simply convert my exact measurements and everything would be fine. I paid by credit card, arranged for the item to be left with a neighbour, and quietly congratulated myself on having removed one major headache from the job.

Later the same week, my elderly neighbour reported that he had received a large item addressed to me, and there it was – packed around the edges with padding, and looking really good. Secure in the knowledge that the back board was all ready to be fixed on, I cracked on with the cabinet, but when the time came to add the back, I was horrified to find it was a few millimetres big in both directions. I checked everything – they had cut it perfectly, but it was a little too big.

I got to bed that night about 4 a.m., having trimmed the board and faked up the two new edges as best I could. It was not really very good – I arranged to have the more ragged edges at the top and near the corner of the room, but I would always know they were there. You know how it is? – something else to gnaw away at you forever – another little failure...

I phoned the store, and got the same girl, who remembered me very clearly (I would rather not think about just why she remembered me). She found the spec sheet, with the exact measurements, and could not understand what had gone wrong.

“They would have converted your measurements exactly, but we always round to the higher centimetre, to be on the safe side.”

I was dumbstruck by this last piece of information, and asked why they did this, and she said,

“Company policy – it’s what our customers want – and, anyway, all items measured in metric are always bigger.”

This should have some upsides, you would think – petrol bought in litres should give you more in the tank (though of course the kilometre journeys would be longer – hmmm...), metric cans of beer should quench a bigger thirst and so on. In fact, some rounding is a sensible thing to do – I recall visiting Cork in the 1980s and being very impressed that they had erected some smart new European signs advising motorists that the speed limit in town was now 48 kph – the metric equivalent of the old speed limit of 30 mph.

I digress. The cabinet was finished, though I never quite forgave it. It developed another problem over the years, since the weight of the glass doors gradually pulled it a little out of shape, and the doors did not shut properly. Eventually I dismantled it and put it in a public rubbish tip, and I felt somehow cleansed when it was gone.

But I have never forgotten that metric items are always bigger. There are occasions in one’s life when a sudden light-bulb of understanding turns on, and I believe that we have to embrace these moments when they arrive.       

Saturday 6 October 2012

Give-away - Almost Nothing for Nothing

I’m in the process of trying to tidy up my den/office, and there’s a wad of old Historex Napoleonic uniform information sheets that I keep coming up against – mostly French – dating from the 1970s. This is a left-over from my recent loft-clearing activities in East Kilbride, to raise money on eBay for Cancer Research. I keep promising myself I’ll throw them out, but somehow it seems a shame to do this.

There’s nothing particularly rare in this lot, but there’s plenty of it, and Historex are legendary for being correct. If you are interested, please leave a comment with contact details (tell me if you don’t want it published), or email me through my Blogger profile. Depending on the size of the response, I’ll devise some fiendish system for choosing a recipient, and will mail it to the lucky volunteer/winner. The desirable object on offer is a stack of A4 sheets folded in half, which is about 1 inch thick and weighs around 450 gm. It is also a little faded, and smells a bit – how Old School do you want, anyway?

It may as well go in your dustbin as mine. If there is no response at all, of course, I shall pretend that someone emailed me.

Late edit - I was asked for a sample picture - here you go...

Late late edit - thanks to Hugh, Benjamin, Allen, Marco P, The Red Fox(?) and Mossmorran for your interest - I rolled a six-sided die, and Hugh wins - I'll get the envelope away to Maverick Collecting. No doubt there will be more exciting chuck-out offers coming up, so stay tuned! 

Thursday 4 October 2012

ECW - More Recruits

I made a slow job of finishing them off, what with Hadrian's Wall and other interruptions, but here's two new regiments of foot - pretty similar to the last two, really. The chaps in green are Tillier's Regt (R), veterans of the wars in Ireland - these are Les Higgins figures, apart from a converted Hinton Hunt ensign and an SHQ officer.

The other lot are Ralph Ashton's Regt (P), in a fine shade of LMS red, which this very old schoolboy feels is entirely appropriate for a Lancashire unit (in a rather convoluted way - if you have no idea what I'm talking about, it doesn't matter, it would take too long to explain). Ashton's men are Hinton Hunts apart from the Higgins drummer. As has become my standard practice, I've modified the standard bearer, removing the cast metal flag and the giant base, and fitting a wire staff.

The planned pikes made from my new brown florist's wire were abandoned very quickly - the brown-covered wire is thinner than the normal green wire, is not rigid enough and didn't even cut nicely, so I'm back to the green wire, which requires painting and varnishing, as before. Another wizard wheeze bites the dust...

With luck, I should have yet another two units fettled and ready for painting by the end of this weekend, so by my own pedestrian standards I'm fairly rattling along!

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Hooptedoodle #66 - Tiger Tank Slippers

My deep thanks to Iain Mac, who has brightened my morning - nay, my week - by drawing my attention to this ad on Etsy. The item for sale is a pattern for crocheting a pair of Tiger 1 slippers, no less, and you can see how desirable these are from the illustration.

My faith in the human race is at least partly restored - I think these are wonderful. If you do not wish to be the only kid in your gang who does not have a pair of these by Christmas, you'll find the full advert here - and here's a scan of it.

Excellent - thanks again, Iain.

Monday 1 October 2012

ECW - the first Royalist unit of Horse

Finally got my new ECW cavalry unit based and provided with a suitable flag. Lee did his customary super job with the painting, so I am very pleased with them. I have a further two regiments of foot which are almost finished, and hope to get more units fettled and ready for painting by next weekend.

The cavalry figures are by Kennington/SHQ - I really like their ECW cavalry.

This is getting dangerously close to progress. There is a minimum size of army - anything too small and it seems like one of those "abandoned projects" one sees for sale on eBay. I would like to move fairly quickly to about 6 units of foot and (say) two of horse on each side, plus a couple of artillery units and the odd general. At that point it becomes a work in progress rather than a geeky and uncertain prototype. I also have a small resin mountain of very nice (15mm) period buildings from Hovels to paint, so I must get on with that as well.

Here's the new guys, anyway. More soon.