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

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Champs de Mars - August 2019

Today my wife is trekking along the coast, from just north of Berwick to St Abbs, with her walking group, so I'm busy doing some work sorting out The Cupboard. Nothing very exciting - just a delayed Spring clean, to shift the Anglo-Portuguese down one shelf, clear out some scenery pieces and odd junk, re-organise the French army to give more room to accommodate the new units coming from the Refurb, and smarten up the layout of the A4 boxfiles which hold the overflow.

It makes sense to empty the lot, and do a bit of cleaning and tidying. Since this involves laying the troops out so I can change the shelf order, a photograph or two seems appropriate - it's a while since I did a full army photo.

So today's presentation is the French army - the lighting and my photography could certainly be better, but I hope you enjoy the pics. I'm delighted that inspection reveals no damage, which is not really a surprise but is a bit of a relief anyway.

From this end, the columns are Confederation infantry, then Italians plus King Joseph's Spaniards, then 5 columns of French infantry, then the Imperial Guard (with the band at the head!), then dragoons (with various generals and marshals at the rear), then light cavalry, then cuirassiers; at the far (right) end, the field artillery is in front, behind them is the siege artillery, then the garrison artillery, at the back are the engineers, with some logistics stuff alongside

As we used to joke, never mind the quality, feel the width!

Friday, 16 August 2019

Reserve Chips in Ramekin (the Genie Delivers?)

New supplies of 18mm chips in two colours, and the requisite D3 to sort out the mysteries of off-table reserves. Hot from the Genie.
I've been doing some work on my Ramekin Napoleonic rules, to encourage the realistic use of off-table reserves. Ramekin is my house variant of Commands & Colors:Napoleonics - it uses the movement and combat systems from C&CN (with some minor changes) but replaces the Command Cards with a dice-based activation system which allocates Order Chips to units. The introduction of this hybrid game has gone pretty well to date, though my recent Neumarkt scenario got a little bogged down in the introduction of off-table reserves into the action. I have been thinking how to improve this problem, and I was delighted (and very surprised!) by the number of interesting contributions and ideas I received.

I am very grateful to Arlen, Dave, David, Chris, Chris, Mark, Peter, Dan, Ross and Rob (and certainly one or two others - if I've omitted you, you know who you are) for applying their very considerable intellect and gaming experience to the issue of my humble rules, and, especially, to Goya, for analysing my rambling draft, and to the Archduke, for coming up with the logical but ground-shaking idea that there should be two types of Order Chips - ordinary ones (as at present), and (exciting, new) Reserve Chips, which are a bit different, as I shall attempt to describe with some attempt at brevity. Thank you, gentlemen.
A proportion of this post is copied from an email exchange I had earlier today - the previous recipient may well recognise sections of the text - apologies, as necessary, but it seemed a shame to waste it! What I like about this is the simplicity - even I can understand it! No doubt some further tweaking will be necessary, but this seems to be shaping up, and it now needs a little playtesting.

Eventually there has probably been sufficient interest in this to justify a short blog post - it will mean little or nothing to most readers, but never mind. Here is what is beginning to look like The Answer (or the First Draft of The Answer...).

* Ramekin rules are pretty much unchanged, except there are now two colours of Order Chips - one colour is Reserve Chips.
* These Reserve Chips arrive by a slow trickle, controlled by the dice, rather like the Order Chips, but there are a couple of differences...
* If your army includes an off-table reserve (of any size) you get to roll an extra D3 along with your Initiative Dice each turn - it doesn't add to the Initiative Total - the only thing you can use it for is to generate Reserve Chips.
* All you can ever do with Reserve Chips is use them to move off-table units on to the table - you can double up these Reserve Chips if you have accumulated enough, to allow the reserves to travel a little further on to the table, but you can't use them for fighting, and once the reserve units are on the table you need normal Order Chips to do anything with them - which is in itself a good reason to wait a while before bringing them on. You can't change Reserve Chips into Order Chips. No.
* If any of your off-table reserves are delayed for any reason (such as the Prussians at Waterloo) then the scenario will include a rule to determine/restrict when they are allowed to come on.
* If you have Reserve Chips left after you've brought all your off-table units on, you can ditch them, and stop rolling the extra die, since it doesn't achieve anything.
* Ramekin already stipulates that normal Order Chips can be carried forward to the next turn if not used, subject to a maximum carry-forward of 5; Reserve Chips may be carried forward without limit. [I am thinking of also allowing Order Chips in the player's stash to be converted to Reserve Chips, without the option to change them back later, but haven't decided about this]
* [Designer's Note...] I have been nervous of creating gamey situations where (for example) a player may use the existence of a reserve as a crafty way to generate extra Order Chips for his army. I think the system set out here works for a number of reasons. I've also abandoned various ambitious plans to allow reserves to be activated by the surrender of accumulated Victory Points - not least because I was at a loss to explain what this represented in a real battle. Apart from the good sense of keeping the reserve fresh and safe, it requires some time to accumulate sufficient Reserve Chips to get a strategic advance organised, and also bringing on the reserve too early runs the risk that there won't be enough Orders to go round - when the army is getting worn out, some of the units will not be using Orders any more, so there should be spare to look after the reserve. The tactic of bringing on the reserve prematurely, to jam up the table when there are insufficient Order Chips to do anything with them looks (historically, I hope) like a bad one!

Anyway - it obviously needs a bit of testing. In the meantime I've taken delivery of a shipment of what (of Moenchengladbach) describe as Crusader-Dubloons - in two colours. These will result in the phasing out of my rather whimsical collection of blue Tesco customer tokens, which have featured on this blog in a number of conflicts of late - I shall miss them, I guess, but this looks a bit more professional.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Another Quick Burst of Engineers

Mostly to give myself a little break from refurbing the 70eme Ligne, I've painted some more soldiers for my French Siege Train. Here are the 1st and 3rd companies of the 2eme Bataillon de Sapeurs, all ready for Ciudad Rodrigo or the Salamanca Forts.

The guys who will do the actual work are from Hagen. The officers are clearly of a superior breed altogether - these are from the Franznap Pontonniers Command set. I've had the Franznap set for a while, but since I am unlikely to make any serious attempt at a wargaming pontoon team, here they are.

I enjoyed painting all of them - a lot of fun. I'm usually a bit nervous of Franznap - the sculpts are lovely, the castings (by Schilling, I believe) are very good too, but the figures are very slender - a bit delicate for tabletop handling, maybe - the castings regularly arrive bent from the supplier, especially the legs of horses, and I am always doubtful about any wargame figures which have to be assembled from bits - they just look as if they are going to come apart in moments of stress.

Anyway, here they are, to sit in The Cupboard and remind me I was going to get back to my siege game any time soon. The officers look a little senior for digging trenches or saps - a Chef de Bataillon and possibly a Colonel? - I guess that must be a really important piece of wood they have there.

As with all (most?) of my siege stuff, these chaps are on the earth brown bases - these are individually based, on magnets, so they can be deployed around the diggings once I have got the siege rules a bit more stable...

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Hooptedoodle #339: Kevin and the Genie

The Genie seemed to be getting a little impatient.

"Righto - that's the 200 million euros in a secret Swiss bank account, and the lifetime supply of Flamin' Hot Nacho Cheese-flavour Doritos all arranged - you have one wish left."

"Gosh," said Kevin, "this really is difficult - I don't know what to choose! I'm trying to decide what my favourite brand of chocolate is."

The Genie was now definitely getting a little impatient.

"Look," he said, "I'm really very grateful to you for releasing me from the lamp, and all that, but I've been stuck in there for a thousand years, and I've some catching up to do, so if we could get on with it...?"

Kevin was not outfaced.

"I understand that I can put you back in the lamp at any time until I've had my three wishes granted, isn't that right?" and he held the stopper threateningly, over the top of the lamp. "If I hadn't been given the job of clearing out my Grannie's attic you would still be in there, wouldn't you? - so give me a minute or two to think of something. I'm not sure just what you are able to do, you see - you couldn't give me some ideas?"

The Genie sighed. If you've never heard a Genie sigh, it's a sound you really don't forget in a hurry.

"Well, so far you've exhibited the usual level of greed I expect in these situations - with respect, of course," he added, hastily, glancing at the stopper in Kevin's hand. "Why don't you wish for something which is of some good to the rest of the world, apart from yourself?"

Kevin pondered this for a minute.

"I know," he said, "there's terrible trouble in the Middle East recently - a lot of fighting and religious hatred - terrible misery and suffering in Syria, Yemen, Gaza, places like that. Could you fix that, and make the area peaceful again?"

"Hmmm," murmured the Genie, "that's a refreshing idea - that might be a possibility. The names don't mean anything to me - they may be modern names - where is this place?"

Kevin rushed off and fetched his old Philip's World Atlas for Schools, and opened it at the Middle East. The Genie studied it carefully, but became very uneasy.

"Look - I'm really sorry," he said. "The names are unfamiliar, but I recognise the maps - I know these places well - the people here have hated each other for thousands of years. I don't like to say this, but you've come up with something I really don't think I can do anything about. Too vast a problem - too long a history of trouble. I am sorry, Kevin - it was a really good idea, though. Is there anything else I can do for you? - something a bit easier?"

Kevin became thoughtful for a while. Then he brightened up a little.

"Well, this may seem silly, but I play wargames - battles with model soldiers - with some friends, and we regularly have difficulties trying to arrange our rules to encourage the proper use of off-table reserves. It really doesn't work very well. Since you have knowledge of all the wise things that have ever been done, could you come up with a solution for this problem?"

The Genie just stared at him.

"Let's have another look at that map of the Middle East?" he said.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019


Just look at that - it seems that my total hits count has slithered past 750,000 while I wasn't paying attention. I don't normally bother about such things, but it's a pleasingly off-beat sort of landmark, and it is a surprisingly big number - it is so big, in fact, that if I started counting now I would have forgotten what I was doing long before I got there. That's big.

Even allowing for the RSI problems I've got from pressing "cmd-R" for hours at a time ("F5" in my Windows days), and ignoring the strange visits I get from the Ukraine and elsewhere, that still leaves a lot of genuine hits for which I must thank all readers, past and present. I am, honestly, humbled by the thought. Thank you all very much.

Separate Topic

It really doesn't matter, but it has been drawn to my attention that someone is selling 28mm printed Napoleonic flags on eBay, and some of them (by no means all) are my original work. I'm sure the guy makes a lovely job of printing them, and I'm also pretty sure that the files are in the public domain, so I have no right to complain or feel aggrieved - they are not copyrighted in any way, and the seller almost certainly doesn't know the origin of the files he is using.

I know they are mine because (a) I recognise quite a few, and (b) he has faithfully reproduced some which were mere educated guesses on my part, and a couple which are actually incorrect. A couple of his flags are also incorrectly titled, and at least one is from the wrong century.

So - no hard feelings - it doesn't seem quite right (since I wouldn't do this myself), but he is selling them pretty cheap. I would just say that if anyone wants to download and use any of my flags for free, from this blog, please do so - I'm sure the seller won't notice. Just look under the download and flags labels on the right hand side. Cut out the entrepreneur.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

French Refurb: Slow but Steady

Another battalion is now finished - bases, sabot, flag, varnish tweaks, labelling. Photos have been taken for The Catalogue and they are into The Cupboard.

I've actually got some metrics for this job - most of the figures come from a collection I bought last year which has the working title of Carlo's Army. There was a blog post of sorts when I painted some of them, in June last year, and since then I've been accumulating figures to fill the gaps. They are finished now - the 2nd battalion of the 47eme Ligne. Figures are mostly vintage Les Higgins, with a mounted Chef de Bataillon and a drummer from Art Miniaturen, and an eagle-bearer from Schilling.

And, as a check, here they are in June 2018. Not exactly lightning-fast progress, but I get there in the end (with help!) and a lot has been going on at the same time. Next up, also from Carlo's legacy, will be two battalions of 70eme Ligne. Don't hold your breath, but they are under way.

Monday, 29 July 2019

French Refurb: ex-Eric Knowles units

Just a quickie - these chaps appeared fleetingly here the other day - they are now properly based up and supplied with my home-made flags, so I've taken official photos for the Service Catalogue, and they can stand ready in The Cupboard. They are now the first and second battalions of the 1er Ligne, who are perfect for Thomieres' Divn at Salamanca or for service on the Danube.

Figures are, for the most part, Eric's 1960s Hinton Hunts, and as far as possible I have preserved his paintwork. I obtained some suitable HH drummers, but the rest of the command figures are SHQ, which fit in well both for size and style.

It is indeed an honour to be able to keep Eric's soldiers on active service. I'm confident they will march on for many years. Thanks to Dave Crook for rescuing them!

1st battalion

2nd battalion

The Battle of Neumarkt-Sankt Veit (24th April 1809)

We had a big wargame here on Saturday - we had four generals, no less - Goya and Stryker and I were joined by The Archduke, who had travelled through a tempest, by express carriage, over the mountains from foreign lands, so we were a happy and prestigious assembly, as you may appreciate.

Our event for the day was to be the Battle of Neumarkt, noted as one of Marshal Bessieres' bad days. If you wish to read about the real battle, the best coverage is in the second volume of John H Gill's Thunder on the Danube trilogy, and in the Bavarian chapter in the same author's With Eagles to Glory. Like me, you may be surprised that there is so little written on the subject, but you must bear in mind that (1) Napoleon was not present, and (2) the French lost, which explains a lot.

Allied forces frantically pushing the French reserve over the river early on, to support Wrede's Bavarians. A lot of congestion - a lot of tap-dancing and creative orders to squeeze everyone in.
We played to the latest upgrade of Ramekin (the house's tweaked version of C&CN), we played on a 17 x 9 hex table (that's 10'4" long) and as far as possible we fielded armies which were pretty much correct for manpower representation, though the number of separate units was understated to fit [i.e. we used a reduced number of full-strength units to achieve the correct army strength, since that saves space and the rules work best in that arrangement]. Since they contributed the bulk of the Austrian forces - and we had 21 battalions in the Austrian OOB, which is a fine effort - Goya and The Archduke commanded the forces of the Kaiser. Stryker and I were in charge of the Franco-Bavarian army.

My scenario is due for a bit of criticism at the end of this post, but we'll get to that. The idea was to make use of off-table reserves. At the start, the French infantry (a division under GdD Molitor) were behind the River Rott, and thus off the table (since the river was mostly along the edge of the table). The Bavarians were deployed on the other side of the river, with their backs to it - not a comforting situation. They were placed in and around the south side of the village of Neumarkt and the Abbey of Sankt Veit (St Vitus - yes, that one), with their front line on a ridge by the village of Ober Scherm. The Austrians were arriving on the table in 3 columns. One (the left one - Hoffmeister's) was delayed, and thus had to be cued onto the field by a dice roll of 6 [test every turn!], the other two columns being well established on the table, with the rear of each column being off table but able to march on as orders and space permitted.

In the actual historical battle, the Bavarians defended their position pretty well, until things became impossible, at which point they managed a moderately disastrous withdrawal over the Rott (only one bridge at the town). I had identified that this would make an unsatisfactory game, so for our scenario the French adopted a new Plan B, by which Molitor would bring his infantry over the bridge to reinforce the Bavarians (under Wrede), and the combined force would set about the Kaiserliks before the ends of the columns came up.


The game was pretty hectic - and I have to say this was one of the hotter afternoons of the summer so far, so the level of personal courage displayed by the generals was - what's the word? - exemplary - yes, that's it. Extra Victory Points (VPs) were available to the Austrians for every unit they managed to exit over the French baseline - having crossed the river, these units were regarded as having outflanked the French position.

I'll attempt to indicate a narrative of some sort in the captions to the photos. If you can't be bothered reading all that stuff, you need to know that the French lost, and it was not close, so for once there will be no "it could have gone either way" malarkey.

The battlefield, river and town at the far edge, before the soldiers came. John H Gill present and correct - great book, by the way.
And with the first instalment of troops - French light cavalry far left, Bavarians in front of the town and in the Abbey (famed for its lofty tower). On this side of the table, Mesko's advance guard is moving up in the centre, and Reuss's column is moving up on the right. Hoffmeister should eventually appear on the left flank.  
This is Jacquinot's light cavalry brigade - the only French troops on their right. There would have been a regiment of hussars as well, but Bessieres had detached them to go and check on something or other [historical fact]. You will hear more of these chaps later on...
View over the Bavarian-held area - the River Rott to their rear has only a single bridge, and is unfordable - yes - quite so.
Over on the French left, the view across the field shows that Prince Reuss's column is moving up nicely, and getting bigger as the off-table elements arrive. At this point, there was a lot of anxiety about the French left, and a plan was emerging to shift some of the French arrivals over to that side.
General view at this point, with Molitor's troops pouring over the river bridge, and wondering where they should stand
The defence of the southern suburb is looking less sparse, but a lot of sorting out is needed to get them organised. The centre column in the background advances relentlessly. Apart from artillery exchanges, very little combat at this stage, so any chance the French might have had of gaining some early momentum has already largely evaporated.
The Austrians are beginning to realise that they don't need to bring on all the reserves at once - they can use some of their orders for doing some actual fighting. The French took a while longer to get this idea. The soldiers in the woods are two battalions of Grenzers who, along with the IR Benjowsky of Hoffmeister's column, were the stand-out troops of the day.
Ah yes - Jacquinot's cavalry spotted a fantastic opportunity to take out an isolated battery on the Austrian left. It did not go as well as we had hoped. The cavalry units were not eliminated, but were not in a fit state to contribute much thereafter. In earlier conversation, The Archduke had wondered how a cavalry attack on artillery would go under these rules - he had his answer - he may still be grinning.
Part of Hoffmeister's column (with the man himself attached), looking to do the crafty outflanking manoeuvre and cross the river for extra VPs.
The Austrians did not mop up on their right flank, though it looked as though they might, but then they didn't need to.
More Austrian infantry crossing the river for bonus VPs - the end is close. Austrians won 10-5. The 10 consisted of 3 units advanced off the table ("outflank") and 7 French units eliminated. No staff losses on either side, by the way - unusually, apart from the heat, the Generals were all safe.
A moment for the C&C buffs. At one point, an Austrian line battalion attacked a regiment of Bavarian cavalry from the edge of a wood. The cavalry performed the correct Retire & Reform manoeuvre, which means the infantry still get a bash at them, but do not get to count "crossed-sabres" symbols, only "cavalry" symbols counting as hits. Guess what the infantry rolled? - see above. This roll would have wiped the cavalry out otherwise - as it is they suffered no loss at all - very lucky indeed!

[This is the point I reached in this post last night - I am now editing...]

My thanks to my colleagues for their enthusiasm and hard work, and especially their excellent company. Many miles were travelled on a very wet Saturday morning to assemble the troops and the players, so my compliments and admiration all round - The Archduke had a long drive each way to take part, which is an especially splendid effort! Thanks again, gentlemen - I could not hope for better friends.

The Ramekin rules worked well enough (Ramekin has now reached Ver. 2.0, and some more gentle tweaks are probably in the pipeline). The Austrians' appearance at Eggmuehl a few months ago sparked the first adjustment to kill rates. Yesterday we saw some similar situations - those 5-block Austrian battalions secure in woods. The changes in the rules do make things more reasonable, but the Austrian line units still take some stopping!

Ramble about Off-Table Reserves, War Games, Waterloo and All Sorts

Analysis of the scenario design is interesting - I am now thinking hard about the best way to incorporate off-table reserves. That aspect of our game did not go as well as I had hoped - though the game was fine, and a lot of fun, there is something philosophically tricky about reserves. I had spent some time before the game trying to get some insight into how this is handled in "proper" [i.e. other people's] wargames. I didn't learn much that was useful. In particular, I came across lengthy discussions on BoardGameGeek and elsewhere in which a load of guys took the opportunity to spout everything they knew about WW2 boardgames and the correct way to win a real war with bits of cardboard - I regret that I slept through quite a lot of that.

Here's the nub. At the Battle of Waterloo (sorry about this, but please bear with me a minute or two), most of the fighting took place in an area which I could squeeze into my largest table size - well, you might have to exclude Plancenoit. You could have the Allied army at one side, and the fighting would all take place around their position and in front of it - that's pretty much how the battle went, and it makes sense, since the French were attacking. That's how the game is traditionally played. Good.

Napoleon had a lot of troops a fair distance behind his front lines. The big cavalry charges, the final advance of the Guard - all that stuff - would correctly manifest itself in a game as an off-table reserve marching on. What Napoleon did not do on the day was fire a cannon at the start of the action as a signal for everyone to charge at once. When I think about it, this means he used his reserves as, well, reserves. I appreciate that the world of 6mm brings a different dimension to the game, but most wargamers of my acquaintance - especially me - guys with 25mm soldiers and normal-length arms - would, as far as possible, have just flung all the reserves in straight away to try to get an advantage on the table. The advantage is mostly illusory. You have more troops, but you can't do much with them. Napoleon (unlike me) was smart enough to realise that he had too many troops to fit onto the immediate fighting area - good practice was to bring the boys up only when you could use them. I use Waterloo because it is a well-known situation, and even I understand it, and also [whisper it] because we are pondering having a bash at Waterloo sometime.

Right - the problem in the game is partly the instinctive behaviour of amateurs like me, who were brought up on small skirmishes with embryonic collections of toys, and partly is a matter of rules. A standard approach to this might be to artificially restrict the availability of the reserve troops. The rules might say, "you may not stage Ney's big cavalry attack until after 2pm (or something), because that's what happened in the real battle". Now that would stop the beggars charging onto the field at the start, but I really don't like that as a rule. It is scripting the action, which takes a lot out of the game, and it brings you into all sorts of areas of the defenders knowing what is going to happen, how many troops it is going to happen with, and a whole pile of conditioning based on our understanding of the real battle and a load of hindsight which would not have been available to the generals of the day. As soon as your game becomes a scripted walk-through it pretty much stops being a game.

Our Neumarkt game on Saturday involved too many units to fit comfortably on the table, but the military situation was historically correct, and the idea of keeping some of the troops off the table until they could be used is obvious and (I think) authentic. Where the scenario struggled a little is that the French Plan B involved getting their reserves on the table as fast as possible and - in response - the obvious thing for the Austrians to do was to get the rear of their columns on the table too, so they didn't become disadvantaged. In other words (to repeat the message yet again - for my own benefit), the wargaming instinct was to cram everything back on the table as fast as possible - thus defeating the whole purpose of having off-table troops in the first place. Because the supply of order chips is restricted, the need to march everyone into position limited the amount of fighting, and crowded out most of the manoeuvre that could have gone into the early stages.

As I mentioned above, the Austrian commanders realised what was going on and started attacking with what was on the table - they did a nice enough job and they certainly saved the game as a spectacle. And, of course, they won rather easily in the end. If I recall correctly, 9 of the Austrian units were still waiting to come on the table at the end. Meanwhile, the Franco-Bavarian side had a lot of units crammed on the field which had not done any fighting and had mostly consumed order chips by trying to get out of each other's way. Hmmm. Mea culpa.

I have a couple of discussions going on with people whose views I have a lot of respect for, so setting this conundrum out here is not intended to preempt anything they have to say. There is something basic here that I can't get the hang of - how to make off-table reserves available, and have the rules allow the players (force the players? - nah...) to use them correctly.

Interesting stuff. 


Friday, 26 July 2019

Guest Appearance: More ECW Hinton Hunts

I received a very nice email from Steve Cooney, who sent me some pictures of soldiers in his collection. Always worth sharing, I think.

Steve describes them thus:

Meanwhile if you want to have a break from all those Napoleonics, I have attached some pics of Sir Thomas Blackwell's ECW Royalist Regiment of Foote; all Hinton Hunt figures except for the modified Les Higgins drummer and the thinned-down SHQ Officer on foot.

Hope you like them.

Steve, I like them - thank you!

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Janitors of the Guard

Goya very kindly gave me these chaps some weeks ago - three odd figures from the collection of my late Edinburgh friend and erstwhile wargame opponent, Peter Gouldesbrough. They are, as you see, French engineers - Peter converted these from Hinton Hunt French line artillery gunners. I never saw his 20mm armies in their glory, since he had moved on to 5mm by the time I met him.

I have smartened them up a little (I hope you can tell). I guess Peter probably painted these around 1968-70, and he didn't really believe much in varnish, so there was some touching-up required to get them ready for duty. I thought they looked a bit like janitors, with the home-made hammer and shovel - ideally the third fellow should have had a bucket of sawdust. So they are currently known here as les Concierges de la Garde.

Of course, they are nothing of the sort. These are regular line engineers - I also have some more sappers and miners to paint up for the French Siege Train box, but they are all in full cuirass and helmet order - I didn't have any in campaign dress until now.

Peter had something of an Impressionist painting style - I've deliberately tidied them up a bit. I think he might disapprove of my painting, but he would be pleased that his boys are still around to cope with the odd job. Anyway, they're fun and I'm pleased with them. If you need any shrubs planted, please get in touch.