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

Thursday 23 December 2021

Hooptedoodle #416 - Another Mystery Object

 Not so exotic, in fact, but I'd never seen one before. It seems we have one in our house, though I didn't know. If you've seen these, you will know immediately what it is, otherwise you may be as puzzled as I was!

The item is made of leather, with a metal buckle - as you see, it is constructed like a belt or strap. The bulbous part is perforated on one side, and stuffed (I believe) with horsehair. This would be regarded as rather an old-fashioned item to have in the house, though I am told that they have been in some demand during the lockdown period.

Like to have a go? I'll keep unpublished any comments which include guesses or are otherwise spoilers - I'll publish and reveal what it is in a day or two. The coin in the last photo is a British 2p piece, for scale.

***** Late Edit *****

I'm very pleased with the responses - thank you all very much, so I've decided to add the dénouement a little earlier than planned.

Rob has got it - it's a Knitting Belt - as used by Shetland knitters (and others). You fasten it around your waist and, as Rob explains, one needle may be anchored by sticking it through one of the apertures, and I understand it is a major help if you are using 3 needles! Here is a lady using a knitting belt...

I'm pleased with all the suggestions, and will make sure we hang onto ours (which my wife bought at a craft fair in another century); it obviously has a great many other uses which will come in very handy.

It remains only for me to wish everyone a peaceful and relaxing Christmas. I'll see you on the other side!


Wednesday 15 December 2021

WSS: First French Unit

 I'm very pleased to welcome a refurbished battalion of French infantry - this is the Regt de Nettancourt, beautifully painted by Aly Morrison.

Nettancourt - 20mm Les Higgins castings, though the mounted officer is from Irregular, on a Higgins horse. Most of the figures are from the Eric Knowles collection

Interesting drummer - derived from an illustration in Mark Allen's book - Nettancourt, from the Lorraine region, earlier had green facings, and the livery reflects that history of green. Perfectly painted, it goes without saying!

I have attached laser printed flags - a new experiment for me. The flags are from the excellent Not By Appointment blog - with the author's approval, and certainly laser printing shows off the quality of the artwork, but I need to do some more research on this - I have some issues with this first trial batch. The paper, at 120g/sm, is a little too heavy, and the satin paper produces flags which are probably too glossy - I'll work on this. I think this is promising, but I need to discuss the matter with Malcolm the Printer to see what works best. Since I am gluing the flags with PVA, I can remove and replace them very easily.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Hooptedoodle #415 - Muted Celebrations

 This completely pointless post follows from a telephone conversation I had with Older Son No.3 on Saturday. I rang him up to see how he is doing - he has had some problems with his physical health recently, and is working from home, so I phone him up from time to time to see how he is coping. We had a fairly downbeat discussion about what his solitary Christmas is likely to be like, and from there we got onto the general topic of celebrations that fall flat, and I have to say that we finished up having one of the best laughs I can remember for a while!

He recalls that on his actual 21st birthday he was studying for exams, and he had recently been forced to move his accommodation to a different hall of residence, since there had been a fire at his previous one. He now shared a landing with 4 students from Sri Lanka (this was in Glasgow - he still lives in Glasgow). He says they were nice enough lads, but they kept to themselves, and communication had been limited.

However, somehow they were aware that this particular day was his 21st, and at about 6:30pm his doorbell rang and there were his 4 neighbours, looking very embarrassed. One of them said "happy birthday", and handed him a pack of 6 cans of beer. Suitable encouraging gestures were made, so he drank one of the cans, standing at his door, while they applauded politely, and then they shook his hand and went away, leaving him to his exam revision. That was the full glory of his 21st birthday.

Like me, he tends to see life as a series of clips from potential sitcoms - very low-budget sitcoms, at that.

I remembered my actual 21st birthday too, so I shared that with him. Another TV script, I'm afraid, and I still laugh [nervously] at it now. I was on study-leave from university, so had gone home to Liverpool - leaving my girlfriend and most of my normal social circle many miles away - so that I could get my laundry done and eat some healthy food and possibly even get in some serious cramming. My actual birthday was on a Saturday, so my mum was very keen that we should have some little family party - at our house - to grace the occasion.

My dad was very much opposed to the whole idea - at the time he was on very prickly terms with his siblings, largely as a result of my grandmother having had a fatal stroke the first time we took a turn at having her stay at our house, a couple of years before. Just a bad break, I guess.

Anyway, after much argument, family members were invited to our house on the Saturday afternoon. I had the interesting challenge of finding something half-decent to wear. It was all very stilted; a few invitees called off for plausible reasons, I received some presents, made appropriate small talk with relatives - some of whom I couldn't really remember - and we had vol-aux-vents and Ritz crackers with cottage cheese and shrimps on them - the sort of food I later associated with team meetings at work. Well intentioned, but grim.

My dad got fed up with this very quickly, and at about 4:30pm he brought one of the kitchen chairs through to the sitting room, turned on the TV, and sat in the middle of the party, staring fixedly at the horse racing until everyone picked up on the awkwardness and remembered that they really did need to be somewhere else. By 5:30 everyone had left. My parents didn't speak to each other for a week or more, and we had vol-aux-vents from the fridge for tea until they were finished. Vol-aux-vents still make me laugh.

I didn't visit my parents again for some years, so there was an upside to the story, at least.

Anyway, son Peter and I laughed long and loud at the recollection of our birthdays, all those years ago. The point of trotting out this nonsense is simply that I suspect there may be a wealth of stories of failed celebrations out there. My own stag-party ended with me, as the only one left standing, having to take about half-a-dozen of my mates home safely, since they, at least, had had a roaring time.

The only other epic I can think of from my own history was a registry-office wedding I attended in Edinburgh when I was a young chap. I was the Best Man for the event - in the circumstances, I think I may have been Chief Witness, but it's the same sort of deal. The groom was a good friend of mine, and his intended was the daughter of some actual, genuine, titled nobility (I think they were Lord and Lady Dick-Lauder, though don't quote me on this), who were hostile and graceless throughout, and seemed to have come along to the event mostly to pour scorn on the assembled commoners. I had sweated blood over a speech and everything, but the celebration was stopped in its tracks when the bride didn't show up. Very embarrassing all round, but another great TV show in the making.


Anyone got any good-going personal tales of embarrassment, misunderstandings and/or physical violence from celebrations that went disastrously wrong? I'm sure there must be plenty - in fact if there are I'll feel better about the whole subject!

Friday 10 December 2021

WSS: A British General

 Today I received a parcel of soldiers, splendidly painted by Aly Morrison, which is a most welcome contribution.

There is a battalion of French infantry - these chaps are now drying on their new bases, and some nice laser-printed flags should arrive early next week, so I hope to show them off then.

Aly also painted up a classy little British senior officer for me. I'm very pleased with him - a real character. The rider is an Irregular casting, and I think the horse is a sample which Old John kindly sent me - can't remember the maker. Anyway, they've come up lovely, as my Grannie would have said. I'll get him into a little group stand.

Thanks again, Aly.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Hooptedoodle #414 - All Change in the World of Rubbish

 Back in 2015, I did a post on the new waste collection and recycling regs here and, perhaps predictably, I was rather less than wholehearted in my enthusiasm.

The new regime at that time involved 5 separate waste bins for each household: a small grey one for food waste, which was collected every Thursday; a fullsize wheelie with a red top for plastics, glass and metal, collected every 2nd Thursday; another wheelie with a blue top for paper and cardboard, also collected every 2nd Thursday; a green wheelie for general (landfill) waste, collected every 2nd Friday, and a brown wheelie for garden waste, which I think was supposed to be collected once a month, but in fact collection was so irregular that we usually missed it, and I can't remember what the official regime was [garden waste here mostly goes to my personal dump in the woods behind my house].

It worked. As usual, of course, it worked because the council-tax-paying residents put in enough personal effort to make it work, but I have become comfortable with the system, being reconciled to the fact that all this industry is aimed at saving the planet (which I can't fault as an objective) and at reducing the proportion of Council employees who actually do the work, as opposed to managing things.

I was occasionally horrified by the speed with which we could fill the plastics bin, but this has a lot to do with Tesco's commitment to wrapping everything in several layers of clear plastic. [I've never understood this - if I buy a pack of dry pasta, I don't really need to see what macaroni looks like - I've seen it before.] It also had a lot to do with our son's fondness for microwavable curries, but, since he has now gone away to college, we might expect this to reduce a bit. Whatever, our waste collection system became a sequence of known activity days, and the size of the bins seemed fine.

I became aware that the bigger villages around here did not have the red and blue-topped wheelie bins - waste collection day in those places involved some rather silly little tubs with elasticated tops, which were liable to blow about on windy mornings. In fact a couple of friends of mine who live in such villages were interested to see that we had our bins, which they regarded as old-fashioned and a little quaint.

OK - this year we were told there would be a change out here in the sticks. We would come into line with the bigger villages, would lose our red and blue-topped bins, and would be issued with the tubs (black for glass, blue for paper and card) and a weighted white bag for plastics. There will be a single fortnightly collection of "Recycling" - the tubs and the white bag. This requires us to alter our definitions of what-goes-in-where, but seems fine. We will now have 6 bins, with a different timetable. I can handle that.

Not so fast.

(1) the new arrangements were supposed to start back in September or thereabout - the idea was that there would be a final collection of the old bins (which would be emptied for the last time by the special bin-tipping truck, and taken away by a separate wagon accompanying the collecting truck on this final round), and after that we would just have to get used to putting the glass in a new container, plus some other minor adjustments to the list of permissable rubbish items, and the new regime would be running.

(2) there is no way that I propose to keep outdoor bins anywhere in the house, so we have to have a set of indoor containers which map on to the outdoor ones - this is simple enough: we just need a new indoor tub for glass.

(3) the first bad news was that there was some unexplained delay in the issue of the new tubs, so we carried on with the blue and red-tops until we received the new kit. At this point the Council stopped issuing meaningful timetables - the guys with the recycling truck did a best-endeavours run whenever they could to clear up in these fringe areas. It worked better than you might expect, but my wife is an enthusiastic reader of the Council's website. The delay was apparently something to do with obtaining supplies of the new tubs - this may have been associated with Covid, or the involvement of Bastard Foreigners - possibly both.

The New Tubs have arrived

(4) whatever, our new tubs arrived a few days ago. There was, fleetingly, mention of a special final run on Sunday (the Sabbath!) this week, but it didn't happen, so we put our old bins out again for the Monday run, and that didn't happen either.

(5) hmmm.

(6) it now seems very likely that there is no plan for the old bins, that the Council has already disposed of the special bin-tipping truck, and we await instructions. Since life must continue in the meantime, I guess that we start putting out recycling according to the new regs as from next Monday (or possibly the one after).

Our Old Recycling Bins (which are full) are bravely making their Last Stand, though I believe the Real World could not care less

(7) alas, the old bins are full, and the new tubs have about one fifth of their capacity, and the definition of what is allowed has changed. I am confident that nothing will ever happen to cover the changeover - I will have to sort the contents of our old bins into plastic bags, removing glass and putting it in a separate bag. Then I will have to take it to the Council Dump, which has slightly different definitions, since it uses different contractors.

(8) when and if anyone ever collects the old bins, and whether they warn us when they are coming, depends very much on whether they still have any grown-ups involved at the Waste Disposal department. It remains to be seen.

Our new timetable. Going back to September, there is a sequence of blue rectangles which did not apply to us, since we did not have the new tubs at these dates. As an aside, I am surprised that someone at the Council decided that a red pentangle was a good icon to represent a green dustbin. I confess I wouldn't have thought of that one

Not a serious matter, in the overall scale of things, but again I am left to wonder why as a society we are no longer able to organise anything. I mean anything. Too much communication, devoid of useful content; too many people at pains to avoid blame at all costs. Probably, also, too many entitled citizens (like me?) prepared to whinge about change, but it does feel as though I am running pretty hard on the spot to cover the cracks in the system.

I am warned that there is a pile of additional rules - we must have our bins out by 7am on collection day or we will miss the boat, and the green and brown bins must have the handles facing outwards, or else. For a crazy moment I wondered if someone might suggest that the emptied bins should be left somewhere other than the middle of the residents' gates, but I realised that this is unreasonable, and laughed at myself.

We are, of course, lucky to have rubbish at all - I understand this. Perhaps if Boris had fewer pals in the packaging industry things would be easier?

Saturday 4 December 2021

WSS: British Army - Phase I

 Today I received 2 further units of Horse, beautifully painted by Lee. I've based them and presented them with flags, and this completes my Phase I OOB for my British army. I also have (potentially) another unit of dragoons which I may refurb for this phase, or I might leave them until later.

Lumley's Horse in front, Cadogan's to the rear - thanks again, Lee

I'd like to thank Lee and Goya and everyone who has helped me to get this far - I'm really very pleased. Unlike most of my Bavarian and Imperialist Phase I troops, the British are not from the Eric Knowles collection - some have been refurbed from bought-in painted drafts I obtained from Soldiers of Rye, from Albannach and other sources, and a lot of them are painted from scratch using virgin castings. I believe that Eric had made some progress towards replacing his Les Higgins armies with Minifigs and Hinchliffe, and the British seem to be one of the armies which had crossed over.

The next big push will be the French - I have a lot of ex-Eric figures for them, which should scrub up satisfactorily - to balance the sides up a bit and avoid my Brits having to spend the rest of their days fighting the Bavarians.

I still have to work on the command for the Brits, so this group photo is a little premature, but it seemed a suitable project milestone to commemorate!

One British figure I did find in the ex-Eric boxes was this little mounted drummer. A conversion from assorted bits of Higgins castings, I think. He is battle-worn, but should paint up nicely. The logical thing to do with him would be to attach him to a regiment of British dragoons, of course, but this would simply draw attention to the fact that the rest of my dragoons have trumpeters (!), so I shall base him up with a general, as some Big-Wig's personal drummer.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Hooptedoodle #413 - Storm Arwen, South East Scotland

 A Survivor's Tale


We were hit by the first named storm of the Winter last Friday night. My house hasn't been damaged, as far as I know, and we have no-one hurt here, but the farm has been badly affected - lots of trees down, a couple of buildings at the stables were blown over, and there are roofs off the big steading buildings along the lane at Auldhame. Electric power went off at 18:18, and came back on at about 21:30, but it appeared to have been restored only as an emergency service, on reduced voltage, which meant that we could boil a kettle very slowly, that traditional filament-type electric lights worked very dimly, modern energy-saving and LED bulbs didn't work at all, and that was about it. Microwave and most other things were not working, and our central heating was not interested at all at these voltages, so I lugged in some baskets of logs from the woodshed, to keep our stove going.


The phone service at Scottish Power, our electricity supplier, had been tweaked so that you could not speak to anyone (so you couldn't report anything, for example...) and gave pre-recorded messages which were heavy on heroism, and what a terrible time they were having, but said little that was useful or reliable.


Another thing which would not work at the low voltage was broadband, so the electricity company's advice to keep an eye on their website was especially irritating. Amazingly, I could get some kind of data service on my iPhone, but it came and went. By timing the boiling of a kettle, I estimated we must have been operating at something like 40% of the normal 240v.


We kept hearing in the recorded messages that Scottish Power's linesmen were making fantastic progress, and we were led to believe that everything would be restored by 8pm Saturday. The lads from the farm got the roads clear by Saturday night, so things were looking up. Then, Sunday morning, Tommy the Farmer appeared on my doorstep with a chainsaw (which was alarming) and announced that he had found a cable down "at the back of the Walled Garden", and if I was in touch with the supplier could I report it. I spent a few hours trying every known phone number, and just got the same recorded messages. However, one of the more obscure numbers gave the opportunity to leave a phone number of my own, so that someone could call me back. Eventually, about 2pm Sunday, a girl from Scottish Power's customer desk (which is in Birkenhead!) rang me, and I reported the break we'd found, of which they had no previous note. We were at least in the system now.


Monday morning some SP vans arrived and assessors looked at the damage, and promised that the linesmen would come to sort us out. I had to go into Edinburgh for an appointment that took up most of the day, and when I came home I found that the linesmen had, in fact, shown up, but for safety reasons had shut off the power completely, and would return as soon as possible to make a proper repair. Thus we were now completely in the dark, and even the kettle was no longer available. I understand about the need for safety, but this didn't really feel like progress.


About midday Tuesday the vans came back, and the boys got us reconnected at 16:10, disappearing immediately to get on with their backlog. I started going round the house, checking things, and everything seemed to be working except our central heating boiler, which is stubbornly showing a "C1" error code which suggests that, once again, the power cut has broken the fan. This happens occasionally - a problem of our set up here is that the service automatically attempts to reconnect in the event of a line fault, so that the electricity goes off in a series of flashes and stutters. It's the stuttering that does the damage.


Thinking we had maybe got off light, compared with the tales of disaster up and down the country, I phoned Worcester-Bosch and arranged for an engineer to come and sort us out on Thursday, and I was still speaking to their call centre when our electricity dropped out again!


I regret to say that I may have sworn when the place blacked out while I was still speaking to the very helpful young lady at WB, for which I apologised. She took it in good spirit - she said she spends her life speaking to people whose heating has broken down, so she isn't bothered!


Power was finally fixed permanently at 21:50 tonight, by which time I had gone to bed to listen to the Leeds game on my battery radio. OK - I got up, checked things were in order, proved that the boiler was still knackered, set the dishwasher going, tidied up a bit, etc etc... and I made myself a cup of coffee - first for a few days.


We just have to grit our teeth until Thursday. We can use electric radiators to keep the place habitable, the cooker works again, as does the microwave, we have light and TV and broadband. My wife plans to go to her gym each morning for a swim and to get a shower, and I'll use our electric shower upstairs, which is vastly inferior to the posh one downstairs but is good enough for me!


This afternoon I received a personal call from SP, asking were we all right and offering a £10 voucher for a hot meal. I'm proud to say I managed not to swear at that lady. I thanked her for the offer, in the spirit in which it is made, but pointed out that since we are going to have to write off some £150-worth of frozen and refrigerated food, and have had our lives put on hold for 4 days, the voucher is a little insulting if that's the extent of goodwill. I suggested that SP might put the £10 towards equipping a new telephone service which will allow customers to report problems.


I know there has been a lot of horrific damage elsewhere, and people have been injured and stranded, so it's important not to dramatise what's happened here. I am told that this is only the 6th time in recorded history that a red weather warning has been issued for East Lothian. They will have my full attention in future, I promise.


The farm has lost about 40 or 50 adult trees within about 200 yards of my house, some very big ones, and it will take a long while to get everything back to normal, but it could have been a lot worse. It is sobering that I didn't hear any trees coming down - couldn't hear anything for the noise of the wind. What infuriates me is that, if Tommy the Farmer had not found the broken cable on Sunday, then we would have continued to appear as a tick on some regional chart on SP's wall. As far as they were concerned, we were part of an area that had been sorted out, and they had fixed the phone system so that we were unable to contact them to correct that situation.


All the best to everyone affected by the bad weather.  Here are some photos - gratuitous violence:


At least we can get out - Saturday morning, the lads have cleared the lanes

Some of the damage at the Stables - the building right centre shifted about 20 feet and lost its roof, which blew into the hedge on the left


The cable which Tommy found - it is one of the 3 which bring the 3-phase supply to our hamlet - a spur from the main overhead feed. Behind you see the back wall of the "Walled Garden", which was built some time in the 1700s


It goes on to a transformer, and it was the power feeding back through this that gave us our accidental "reduced" service for a couple of days
An aerial photo of the area from a few years ago; on the left of the picture you can see the D-shaped Walled Garden, which once was a market garden with greenhouses, but is now pasture for the horses. This D-shaped field can be identified on Roy's military map of Scotland, 1747-55. The back wall is the one near us, close to the woods, and the cable is on this side of the wall. The tree which caused the extra damage is dark green, on the left edge of the photo. The place certainly doesn't look like this now, after the trees were flattened. The photo is facing almost due North


2 into 3 gives you about 100v, apparently...

Here's a view of the dark green tree from the aerial shot - not much of it left by Monday - Tommy has sawn up a lot of it to clear the gate

                                                                    Erm - sorry - not today it isn't...

More wrecked trees - all lined up, knocked down from the North East...