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

Monday 26 December 2022

Hooptedoodle #435 - Christmas with the English Pastoralists

 My Christmas got off to a flying start when I had to go to bed, unwell, on Saturday morning. A situation which would have been recorded in the cricket score-books of my youth as RETIRED HURT.

Not wishing to dramatise anything here, but I was coughing like an elderly horse, and I was pretty much convinced that I had Covid again, but I have been testing regularly since then, all negative, so I guess I have the flu. Boring.


Well, I have retired to the attic bedroom (as one does), and I have been relying for entertainment on a USB stick of mp3 music which I recorded a few months ago - I have a few of these, for the car, or any outlying BluRay player; this one is titled French Impressionists and English Pastoralists. A sort of private joke for what kind of music it is.

The French bit is easy enough - Ravel, Debussy, Fauré, Hahn, Ibert, a few others. The English category is less obvious; the composers are associated (in my mind) by the style of music rather than the strict dates. Vaughan-Williams, Delius, Bax, Butterworth, Jeffreys, Finzi, Gurney.

Having stashed my festive food in the freezer until some time when I feel up to it, I'm living on Lucozade and Gerald Finzi - musn't grumble.

Finzi gets me to the point I wanted to discuss here. He's better known now than he was, but still not very popular. Finzi himself lived from 1901 to 1956, first of all in London, was evacuated during WW1 to Harrogate and then moved in later life to Gloucestershire. He is probably best known for his song settings of English poetry, with piano accompaniment, but he also produced some beautiful orchestral work.

Gerald Finzi (hurrah!)

I got a real shock when I first heard his Éclogue, for piano and orchestra, on the radio in about 1998 or so. Very moving. Heart stopping, in fact. I understood that he had written the original piece around 1928, as part of a piano concerto which eventually was scrapped. After Finzi's death, his publisher rescued two of the surviving movements as separate pieces. So that must have been around 1960. I couldn't understand how someone who listens to as much music as I have could never have heard such a lovely work; in fact I had never heard of Finzi at all. How could this be?

Well, the start of the explanation is that on that morning I was listening to Classic FM, which was a commercial classical music station in the UK. I would not have heard it on the BBC. Good heavens, no. This is because of the personal bias of one Sir William Glock, a legendary music critic and organiser. Glock is regarded as one of the great men of British music - his influence is still around, though he has been dead since 2000. Glock studied piano with Artur Schnabel in Berlin, and became convinced that modern music was the way to go. He was music critic of the Daily Telegraph and then of the Observer, and ran summer schools to support the growth of "avant-garde" music. His belief was that anyone who wrote music with a more traditional harmonic system - especially if it involved arrangements of folk tunes - was old-hat. Therefore Vaughan-Williams was especially not welcome, as was anyone who had studied under, befriended or (possibly) even heard of Vaughan-Williams.

Sir William Glock (boo!)

From 1959 to 1972 Glock was the BBC's Director of Music, and from 1960 to 1973 he was also head of the London Promenade Concerts. He was a despot. Anyone who was on his (alleged) blacklist of composers would not be performed on the BBC, and there was just about a shut-out on all concerts in London. It might have been possible for concerts to have been performed, or even broadcast, in the more provincial parts of Britain, but who cared about that?

If someone was known (or suspected) to be on Glock's list, the effects were far reaching. The UK recording companies would not touch them, since the BBC would not play or review the records, and there was little scope for public performance. I recall, as a young man, being told that Vaughan-Williams was really an eccentric amateur and would have done much better if he had been a more fastidious orchestrator. Who told me this? - that's right - the good old BBC.

Glock didn't only put a stop to some British composers having an audience in Britain; also Aaron Copeland, Franz Schmidt, Szymanowski and a few others were not encouraged.

In later life, Glock was Director of the Bath Festival, and undoubtedly had some positive influences in the field of music, though his obsession with Pierre Boulez strikes me as a bit odd. However, I recently obtained (at last) a CD of the works of John Jeffreys, which was recorded in the last year of Jeffreys' life, 2014. The sleeve notes on the CD explain that Jeffreys and a few of his contemporaries were unfairly ignored during their productive years, and though Glock and his legacy are not mentioned it is obvious why. At one point, Jeffreys, who had a tendency for depressive illness, was frustrated to the point of destroying the manuscripts for most of his (extensive) portfolio of work.

Well, that does it for me. I hope Glock got a severe talking-to when he arrived at the Pearly Gates. The whole thing smells of the Russian Government banning American music. You will not listen to this, because I say so.

It's rather a long piece, but if you don't know the Éclogue, here it is. I promise you will feel better if you have a listen.

Friday 23 December 2022

Bullets Struggle Uphill?

 Yesterday I enjoyed an English Civil War miniatures game, using my own rules, which are unashamedly based on the Commands & Colors: Napoleonics set.

The game was a lot of fun, and I may write up a battle report when time permits, but during the game a situation arose for which I have no real answer...

At one point we were working out how many Battle Dice to use for an infantry unit firing on another (that's Ranged Combat of course). My guest pointed out that, since in this instance the fire was uphill, then according to my QRS there should be a deduction of 1 die. Oh no, say I, that's a mistake; the [-1] only applies for melee combat uphill. So we check the main rules book, and - goodness me - it says that Foot fighting uphill have a deduction of 1 dice for ranged or melee. To tell the truth, I've never played it like that - I've only ever made the deduction for melees.

Anyway, we made a note that this seems odd, and the rules should probably be changed to require a deduction only for uphill melees, and I scribbled it in my Pending Changes jotter. The game proceeded on its merry way.

Since my ECW game is derived from the C&CN ruleset I had a read of those rules last night, and was surprised to find that they too insist on 1 dice deduction for firing or melee uphill - I had faithfully lifted this into the ECW version. If I'm going to be honest, I have to admit that I can't remember using the deduction for uphill fire in the Napoleonics game either. Hmmm.

Of course, I can change my own rules however I like, and intend to fix this in the next update: -1 dice uphill will only apply to Melee Combat for Foot. Before I consider amending the published C&CN rules as well, I thought I'd see if anyone can provide a really good reason why musket fire would be less effective uphill?

I'm sure there may be a lot of (cod) science involved, and in my search for illustrations I came across lots of photos of American chaps in baseball caps shooting peaceful-looking deer in all sorts of scenery, so I swerved all that.

Anyone have any ideas why musket balls really might be less effective going uphill? I'd be interested to hear any reasons - the more preposterous the better, of course. I can imagine that having the ball roll out of the end of the barrel might be a problem if shooting downhill, but uphill seems OK. If anyone feels moved to use this as an opportunity to have a rant about the stupidity of all aspects of games involving hexes then please don't bother; I've heard it all before, it's boring, and I forgive you anyway. [We know where you live.]

Thursday 8 December 2022

Hooptedoodle #434 - Bookmark and Ramifications

And we note our place with book markers, that measure what we've lost

 I was looking through some old books the other morning - trying to find some military reference or other, and a suitably old bookmark fluttered to the floor.

I must have been given this to accompany a book purchase, one among so many. The old-style telephone number (031 for Edinburgh) indicates that this purchase must have been before 1995 [I knew you'd spot that, Watson], though I am surprised that the insertion of a "1" as second digit of UK phone numbers was as recent as that. No matter.

I am a little embarrassed to relate that I had a single employer from the time I left university until I took early retirement, and for much of that period I was based in or around George Street, and for a large proportion of my lunch breaks I would have been in The Edinburgh Bookshop for some of the time. It wasn't an especially brilliant bookshop - it was always overshadowed locally by James Thin's and Baumeister's and the many specialist booksellers in the Old Town, but - well, it was in George Street, wasn't it? On wet days, cold days and just plain boring days I would traipse along to No.57 after my lunch.

It wasn't a very welcoming store. In charge of the shop-floor were two older ladies who always wore black - very serious older ladies. They were devoted followers of the old Edinburgh principle that anyone who worked in a shop was a cut above anyone who might have the temerity to shop there, and they were very hard on anyone who did not conform to their high standards.

Right at the start of my interest in wargaming, I went into the EB (which, confusingly, was usually known locally as "Brown's", though I never met anyone who remembered it actually being Brown's - I suspect it was one of those social tricks to make outsiders feel uncomfortable) to order the Osprey book about the Iron Brigade. They had a stand of Ospreys, so, since I couldn't find the Iron Brigade, I was encouraged to ask.

Mistake. One of the two Angels of Death rolled her eyes at me, and refused to order it.

"Our stock of these is bewildering, we have lots of them, I think the quality is very poor, and I am not going to order a single copy. I'm sure that if you look in again you may find the item you are looking for, though why anyone should be interested in such matters escapes me."


That kind of sets the tone. I was just a spotty actuarial trainee at the time, and was used to being abused as part of my normal day, so I was not scarred by the experience, and I bought the book on a trip to Newcastle, later the same year. Visiting "Brown's" became a ritual punishment for my colleagues and me - there were many tales of retribution.

My friend Jake Mansfield was asked to leave on one occasion, because he was carrying a Woolworths carrier bag; it was explained to him that a lot of important people patronised the shop, and it was necessary to preserve the tone of the place. Paul Levack was asked to leave because he was carrying a box of cream cakes, obtained from the patisserie next door - maybe this was more understandable. Andy Scott was asked to stop chewing gum.

We were always on our best behaviour - you can understand why.

There were some prominent visitors, in fact - one regular was Professor Peter Higgs (of boson fame), whom I knew slightly because he had been my Mathematical Physics lecturer for one year at university, and there were all manner of lawyers and medical consultants and financial superheroes - none of whom I knew at all, naturally.

I remember one particular incident with affection - it encapsulates so many human frailties in one short lesson, I feel...

I was in "Brown's" at lunchtime, as usual, and decided to ask if they could obtain a particular book for me. The shop was fairly quiet, and I realised with a sinking heart that I would have to speak to one of the Black Sisters. She was already "helping" someone else - generally nondescript middle-aged man, rather below average height, I recall. I stood behind him, to wait my turn. He was not doing well; the lady in charge was becoming very exasperated - shaking her head and being even more rude than usual. He had obviously brought into the shop some kind of a receipt for something he had ordered previously.

"Oh, this is ridiculous - what is all this here? [pointing]"

"I'm sorry, your colleague completed the order - I believe that is the title of the book, is it not?"

"[Theatrical sigh] I can see that it is a title - no - this, here - 'Melville' - is that supposed to be the author?"

"No - no, that is my name..."

"MELVILLE?? - what sort of a name is that? - Melville What? - or is it Mr Melville?"

"No - I'm sorry - it's my name - I am the Viscount Melville."

The lady leapt to attention - like a ramrod; she didn't salute, but I would not have been surprised if she clicked her heels together. Obviously she had been blind-sided by one of these important customers she used to speak of, and what followed was a demonstration of fawning obsequiousness which was so embarrassing that I actually crept away and left them to it. This must be what happens when someone takes a hefty kick in the value-set. I have never forgotten it. The lady in question must have been dead for many years now, but I still remember the occasion with a gentle warmth. Ahhh...   

Edinburgh Bookshop disappeared around 2006. For a time it may have been Ottakers, I believe it was actually a branch of the great rival, James Thin's, for a little while, which must have hurt them deeply. It must have been knocked for six by the arrival of Waterstones, and it was certainly finished off by the rescheduling of George Street to become a very posh shopping area. Nowadays if you cannot eat it or sip it or wear it you will not find it in George Street. Such is progress. Last time I looked, No.57 was a shop selling up-market outdoor sports clothing, but  that may have changed now. The only remaining clue was the iconic clock over the front door.

I was astonished that I cannot find any old photos of The Edinburgh Bookshop online - not even Brown's. I had intended to include a suitably gloomy b&w shot. Just nothing. I spent so many hours there, over the years, on my very best behaviour, and it has vanished without trace. That's not easy to get your head around. There is a new Edinburgh Bookshop now, in Bruntsfield Place, away from the city centre, but they are a completely separate operation; just to be sure, I phoned them up - I spoke to a charming, friendly, helpful lady who was unaware that the old shop had ever existed, and who obviously wouldn't have lasted ten minutes with them, back in the day.

Perhaps I imagined it?


Thursday 1 December 2022

WSS: The First of the Hessians

 Very pleased to report that the first two battalions of the army of Hessen-Kassel are now ready for duty. Very nice paint job, as ever, by Lee. The castings, as ever, are 20mm Les Higgins, with a sprinkling of Irregular.

Here you see the Regiments Erbprinz (front, red facings) and Stückradt (rear, orange facings).