Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Don't turn! Don't turn! Don't turn!

I still have no internet, but couldn't not mark the passing of a legend and so, at great personal inconvenience, I have sought out some wi-fi.

A chap with a beard

"We shall overcome"

As for what you've missed of my life over the past ten days or so, a few highlights:

  • It was toast for breakfast again this morning; second day in a row.
  • 'La Fanciulla del West' by Opera North (and, in fairness, also by Puccini) - very good indeed.
  • 'Gravity' - not a bad film, and definitely a good length
  • An am-dram Agatha Christie - bloody obvious whodunit and why, and possibly the worst Welsh accent of all time
  • Lots of Seven Years War action. I think the rules are in good shape, but a Command Indecision card is never good news.
  • Lots of boardgame action as well, but most notably Viticulture where, in a game about wine producing, I went for a no-wine strategy and came second, finishing level on Victory Points and only losing on the cash tiebreak.

Saturday, 18 January 2014


My soul is dark - Oh! quickly string
The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
Its melting murmurs o'er mine ear.
If in this heart a hope be dear,
That sound shall charm it forth again:
If in these eyes there lurk a tear,
'Twill flow, and cease to burn my brain.

But bid the strain be wild and deep,
Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,
Or else this heavy heart will burst;
For it hath been by sorrow nursed,
And ached in sleepless silence, long;
And now 'tis doomed to know the worst,
And break at once - or yield to song.
                         - Byron

Friday, 17 January 2014

Und Alles Sein ist flammend Leid

A bit of a pop-up guerilla posting as I find myself temporarily connected. Whilst I am tempted to write up the last couple of weeks Eighteenth Century Piquet goodness my innate pseudery impels me to join in the ongoing debate about the Great War by way of a piece of art.

Franz Marc's best known painting 'Fate of the Animals' painted in 1913 may have predicted the conflagration to come (1), but he served in the German Army and died at Verdun in 1916. Was he a militaristic, proto-fascist? Does Michael Gove like Expressionist art? Rhetorical Pedant, where art thou?

(1) He claimed it did, but only when writing home from the trenches. It would have been more impressive if he'd said so in advance.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

My current slightly unorthodox, possibly even bohemian, lifestyle has led to that most twenty-first century of problems: I have no domestic internet connection. As I haven't paid for any such access during the eighteen months or so of my wanderings I don't suppose I should complain too much when I find that it doesn't work. For various practical reasons - mostly the fact that, like the nomad that I am, I shall shortly be rounding up my flocks and moving a few miles down the valley - I won't be doing much about reconnecting to the world wide interweb just yet. I am, therefore, just stepping outside. I may be gone for some time.

"Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increase great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires." - Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

History! It's a mug's game.

But, is it this one?
A man is bringing a cup of coffee to his face, 
tilting it to his mouth. It's historical, he thinks. 
He scratches his head: another historical event. 
He really ought to rest, he's making an awful lot of 
history this morning.
 Oh my, now he's buttering toast, another piece of 
history is being made.
 He wonders why it should have fallen on him to be 
so historical. Others probably just don't have it, 
he thinks, it is, after all, a talent.
 He thinks one of his shoelaces needs tying. Oh well, 
another important historical event is about to take 
place. He just can't help it. Perhaps he's taking up 
too large an area of history? But he has to live, hasn't 
he? Toast needs buttering and he can't go around with 
one of his shoelaces needing to be tied, can he?
 Certainly it's true, when the 20th century gets written 
in full it will be mainly about him. That's the way the 
cookie crumbles--ah, there's a phrase that'll be quoted 
for centuries to come.
 Self-conscious? A little; how can one help it with all 
those yet-to-be-born eyes of the future watching him?
 Uh oh, he feels another historical event coming . . . 
Ah, there it is, a cup of coffee approaching his face at 
the end of his arm. If only they could catch it on film, 
how much it would mean to the future. Oops, spilled it all 
over his lap. One of those historical accidents that will 
influence the next thousand years; unpredictable, and 
really rather uncomfortable . . . But history is never easy, 
he thinks . . .
                    - Russell Edson 
Or this one?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Gavrilo Princip claims more victims

 There was an article on the First World War in the latest edition of Miniature Wargames that rather caused me to shake my head when I read it. Subsequently I have learned that it was written by Trebian, owner of Wargaming for Grown-Ups, a blog and indeed an approach to life of which I thoroughly approve. There has been much discussion in the comments section of said blog - some by me - as to whether a) he is right in what he writes in the article and b) whether anyone should be allowed to tell him that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

I make no comment on point a) except to quote Voltaire: "Cherish those who seek the truth, but beware those who find it."

Regarding point b) I must once again fall back on the words of others:

"The aim of argument, or discussion, should not be victory, but progress." - Joseph Joubert

"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think the author is being somewhat disingenuous when being surprised that the article is interpreted as right-wing. Whilst I do not doubt his assertion that he had no such intention he cannot have been unaware of the attempt by certain politicians to use the anniversary of the Great War to strengthen the cultural and philosophical hegemony which they already enjoy. Whether some right wing historians such as Alan Clark take a different view or whether left wing historians are themselves at odds (as pointed out vociferously by Keith Flett, he of the Beard Liberation Front and the letters page of any newspaper that one opens) is irrelevant to that point.

As for Henry Hyde, I think the article a mistake. I don't like to be lectured in the pages of a hobby magazine. And the furore has deflected attention from what surely should have been the main talking point of this issue - the Royal Mail's ban on carrying paint. I've signed the petition, have you?

Sunday, 5 January 2014


News that Cuba is to lift restrictions on importing cars built after 1959 came as somewhat of a surprise to me. Any visitor there can't help but notice that most cars are - as in the rest of the world - Toyotas; they're just not the ones that anyone takes photos of. The old cars are clearly there as a tourist attraction and I can confirm that there is something very memorable about driving through Havana in an open top classic car with salsa music on the radio and warm wind blowing through where one's hair would normally be. The version that I got from our driver was that far from being relics dating from before the 1959 revolution most of them were actually fairly recent imports from the US via Mexico, specifically brought in for touristic purposes. I can't help thinking that this news story is more spin than substance.

At the age of thirty-seven she knew she'd found forever

And so regrettably we once again turn to those who have left us. Any readers for whom watching the 1966 world cup in grainy black and white was a key formative experience (and on reflection that's perhaps where my otherwise inexplicable interest in North Korea comes from) will feel keenly the sad news of Eusebio's death. What a shot that man had.

And then Phil Everly. They didn't write it, theirs wasn't the best version (step forward Gram Parsons), but one feels obliged to mark his passing by printing the lyrics. That's the way it rolls in the world of wargaming blogs.

Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds and mars
Any heart not tough
Nor strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain
Love hurts
Love hurts

I'm young, I know
But even so
I know a thing or two
I've learned from you
I've really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a stove, burns you when it's hot
Love hurts
Love hurts

Some fools rave of happiness
Blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves, I guess
But they're not fooling me
I know it isn't true, know it isn't true
Love is just a lie made to make you blue
Love hurts
Love hurts
Love hurts

Friday, 3 January 2014


James has asked me to point out that the reason he was given a military helmet for his birthday was not alcohol related. I am delighted to set the record straight. It was in fact a comment on his DIY skills and because he, like me, favours a combination of wide parting and high fringe in his hair. Regular readers will recall that he installed a shelf in his legendary wargames room which has the habit - unfortunate from his point of view, rather amusing from everyone else's - of suddenly smacking him on the head, with the lack of cushioning hair often resulting in the flow of blood. Armed with his new protective headgear he can now change rules and roll dice entirely free from cut-scalp worry. 
You'd better beware, you'd better take care

Thursday, 2 January 2014

"Don't forget your great guns,"

Said this blog's increasingly go to quotation man before continuing "which are the most respectable arguments of the rights of kings."

The Russian commanders
The first wargame of the new year was the same one as the last of the old year. Once again in command of the Prussians I continued my assault on the hill once again with astonishing success. The same couldn’t be said of the cavalry action on the other flank where two units of cuirassiers were seen off by three units of Cossacks and a unit of hussars got pretty much blown away while charging in, although it did then win the subsequent melee against a unit of grenadiers; it was that sort of night with the dice. The luck was actually fairly evenly spread. I turned three cavalry move cards in a row to get into a good position, but then rolled rubbish when the melees happened. C’est la vie. And I managed to prolong both my batteries right to the top of the hill (where they have already started to do damage) despite not turning all my cards in either of the turns that we played. I also had some terrible rolls while trying to rally units and now don’t have enough morale left to try any more. Basically the result will hinge on whether my morale runs out before either of us fails Major Morale.

James shows off his birthday present

We took it at a fairly leisurely pace as we were also marking James’ 50th birthday which had occurred on New Year’s Eve. So congratulations and best wishes to him with the advice that perhaps that’s enough celebrating for 2014.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


It has been observed that I neglected to give you the benefit of learning my film of the year. Apologies. I am going to plump for 'Django Unchained', not perfect, too long, but containing some excellent performances and some laugh out loud moments.

"Why is I'm scarin' you?"

My occasional correspondent Dunny Highway recently posted an erudite comment on the blog about the value of NCOs to armies. I haven't replied before simply because I know nothing whatsoever about the subject. I did, forty odd years ago, reach the level of my incompetence by becoming a flight sergeant in the Air Training Corps, but believe me there wasn't much competition. I once had a boss who operated a very delegated command and control structure in an environment that, in my opinion, was unsuited to it. When challenged he gave me a load of tosh about the German army in WWI having the best NCOs. I pointed out that a) they lost and b) what we were embarked upon (a multi billion dollar project) seemed to me to have rather more in common with D-Day than a trench raid and NCO quality was quite a way down the list of why that was a success. For the record neither he nor I are there any more and the project has continued to burn money with no concrete results.

The dunny hits the highway