Thursday, 23 March 2017

Giving Wargaming Some Stick

I've been hard at work collecting together a new wardrobe for my social outings, including the convention circuit, paying great attention to traditional etiquette of dress and manners.

I purchased some very fine hats in the shape of a Piccadilly made fedora and a Yorkshire made 8 panel Donegal flat cap when I made my first foray into Ted Williams (bespoke tailors). I have also picked up a few pairs of handmade shoes, ties and of course, I fell in love with bespoke suiting and shirting and spent a 3 figure sum on getting my first suit made, in a classic cut - not for me these modern tight fitting numbers - with particular attention paid to the fine details such as fob buttonholes and the like. The gentlemen at Ted Williams were most accommodating in attending to my somewhat discerning standards and in fact suggested even more detail once they realised that I was very serious indeed about the small detail.

I set out to pay whatever it may cost and the one thing that I really appealed to my sartorial sensibilities was a walking cane. I certainly didn't want a modern piece of tat, and instead eventually found a 1920 hallmarked silver shod cane by noted makers Landstone & Co of London.

This business was founded by Adolph Landstone (the name perhaps anglicized from Landstein) by 1897. He was recorded as a stick maker located at 8 & 10, Golden Lane, Barbican, London EC at that date. The business was continued by Rosalie Landstone and styled R. Landstone & Co., recorded at 108 Aldersgate Street, London EC, and later at 17, Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, London EC. Their last recorded address was 73 & 75, Goswell Road in 1913.

For those interested in hallmarks, Adolph Landstone entered his marks at the London Assay Office, on the 14th February 1899 'A.L', and on the 28th March 1899 'AL', both in oblong punches with clipped corners. R. Landstone & Co. entered their marks on the 26th April 1904, and 3rd October 1906, both 'RL&Co' contained within two conjoined circles.

Anyway, here’s the cane, and as you can see it’s hard to believe it’s now 97 years old.

I suppose I can also use it to hold the unwashed masses I encounter at a yard length if nothing else!


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Adventures In Time - An Introspective Ramble Into The 80s

I've been thinking a lot about my life, my hobby, the matter of mortality and such, and so forth.

I've lost 3 friends in 3 months to Mortis and alienated myself from a lot more in the last 3 years by seeking to do the right thing. My interest in gaming has waned and waxed, but I still find myself looking at the 'Golden Age' of the 1980s and coming to the conclusion that we drew so much more from it back then.

So, that led me to consider why that might seem to be the case?

From the outset, I'll state that it's more than the glow of youth compared to the more subtle shades of middle age, nor simply the rose tinted recollection times past.

No, the 80s were frankly, pretty bloody grim. We were in the dying years of the Cold War and under very real threat from the I.R.A's various campaigns on the British mainland. We had the Falklands, we had Chernobyl, we had the terrifying film 'Threads' depicting the prelude to and aftermath of a direct nuclear strike on my own city of Sheffield (I was in Threads as an extra, for the record, and what a grim but fun weekend or two of filming that was, particularly when three of us managed to worm our way into the BBC crew 'canteen' and enjoy some pretty good food compared to the bread roll and soup of the rest of the extras. Oh my yes, roleplaying gave you the balls of steel needed to bluff and coerce your way anywhere.

If you are reading this and was the BBC crew member in the red goose down jacket, who got a large cold cup of coffee on the head when you walked through a door in the old Royal Infirmary, then I apologise for the antics of the three of us.

Anyway, where was I?

Set against this 'grim dark future' (screw you GW, we lived it, you just nicked the name) was a generation of gamers, who were on the shirt tails of the first wave of 'O.Gs' just as the whole genre burst out before the eyes of the world, becoming a craze that was still not the over hyped, carbon copied, corporate shite that we see today. Games Workshop was only 4 or 5 stores strong, most gamers were into rock (but the odd post-punk was to be found) of some or all types, jeans were tight, basketball boots and shemaghs were worn with combat jackets, and mullets and long 'rock-locks' were the badges of our perceived superiority over the bland proletariat, the sports mad teenagers with their Panini sticker books, the 'hard lads' who made the lives of those who looked or thought differently an absolute misery at school, but who were careful not to do so away from school because many of us had older brothers who knew 'Bikers' and who took a very dim view of the persecution of their brothers and their pain-in-the-arse mates, because they too had been picked on a few years earlier, for their music, hair and artistic tendencies. Now they were quite often working in good jobs, rode powerful bikes and frankly had found that they didn't need to take any shit.

Anyway, we existed in a kind of limbo, once the ground rules had been laid out to a few unfortunates. Every so often we got a bit of brutal treatment, but we were treated more as lepers than victims, an untouchable caste.

There was more to life than just games however. One of the odd things about the 80s and the rise of the the hard left and hard right, was the idea of art and culture being key social aims, or in some cases weapons of class war. The art and culture which abounded was phenomenal, if you took the time to look. We lapped it up... Nena sang of 99 red balloons sparking World War 3, contemporary and experimental art spoke of a brave new world and even in the grim industrial North we had art installations which had taken Europe by storm and which, thanks to the Left-biased local government were normally free to view. I remember a stunning exhibition of automata/robotics which was installed in the Graves Art Gallery and which after seeing featured on the regional news, had me dragging my mates to see it. It was freaky, eerie and oh so arty... I was blown away and I knew there and then how I wanted to spend my life. I wanted sharp designs, I wanted starships, I wanted art, I wanted to live in a fantasy world, far away from the madness of the mundane.

Games gave me that to some degree, because they allowed me to travel to distant cities on my own, with friends or in the nurturing and educational hands of guys 10 and 15 years older than me. There was beer, dice, figures, games, dice, figures, games - and my first real hangovers.

There were very few 'clone' games, because frankly there seemed to be a surplus of imagination thanks to the 60s and 70s and I presume some pretty good drugs.

Walking into a game store or convention was a real feast for the senses. You didn't see the carbon copy retailers pushing the same few games, where production quality seems to be more important than the content. You had to really read the old rule sets, learn about a period or the background and UNDERSTAND it. Research and knowledge were invaluable and moreover expected.

And for us, it was no chore, because we were scared shitless of the world outside our bedrooms and so taking solace in a pile of games, unpainted lead and the like with some challenging progressive rock on the turntable, a pack of biscuits and glass of milk was the easy way out.

We really did have things to be scared of, unlike today's kids who have a hissy fit if they are looked at in the wrong way or who after going out of their way to say 'Hey look at me... I am a real freak' get a slap up the head. We were not riding on a wave of nostalgia, because we were pioneers, writing the stories which feed todays nostalgia industry of the retro-nerds who see our generation as twee and quaint.

And now, we are seeing many of the pioneers fading into the West Lands. The world is getting darker and is losing something.

Today, I received a box of exquisitely painted Battle Honours Napoleonic British, and they immediately took me back to when those models were 3 times the cost of the most expensive contemporary models at the time. These are you understand the 'real thing', the English Pewter versions, and I was struggling to convey to my brother all afternoon, just what an impact these models made back then. Indeed they still outshine most modern sculpts.

To those of you who are trying to recreate the era of my generation, PLEASE, watch some old documentaries, re-runs of the music shows and TALK to those who were there at the time. I think that if you can really understand where we were coming from and running to, you will get so, so much more from your adventures in time. Listen, learn and carry our memories on for the generation which if carefully curated and nurtured will in their turn, seek to be just like you.

Think whatever you like, but please don't allow us to be forgotten.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Duke Of Wellington and Fackham Hall

It's been a very very busy week.

I'm not complaining, because busy, means money. But it means that I've not got much done for myself.

I did manage to get to my tailor on Wednesday for the first fitting and to pay them £1595.00 for a rather nice 3-piece suit. My tailors are Sheffield's best and I believe longest established tailors and outfitters, Ted Williams. Their customer service and attention to detail is brilliant. I can hardly wait until it's finished in around 3 months.

On Friday my latest model railway arrived. It is as you may know in 009 scale and will evolve int the private branch line to Fackham Hall, country seat of the Fackham-Sorelys.

I actually spent some time getting the test fittings done on my other railway, again in 009 narrow gauge and depicting the inner yards of Clegg's Patent Pickles. Lots to do, but not a bad half day's work.

Finally, yesterday I picked up a Peninsular British army (after a haggle or two from the original £380 asking price)  for the Shako rules set, for an attractive £300 made up of Battle Honours miniatures (the original ones) and painted by 'The Iron Duke'

They will be matted, rebased and the flags 'tickled' but at £1.15 per piece I am very happy indeed

Right, it's only a couple of hours until it's G&T time and the hour when we watch the weekly improving film from the 1980s, so I will bid you farewell for now.


Sunday, 5 March 2017




Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday

15th, 16th & 17th April 2017

At the Knavesmire Stand York Racecourse YO23 1EX

Open 10am until 5pm Saturday and Sunday

10am until 4.30pm on Monday

Admission: All 2016 prices held for 2017

Discount will be available on tickets bought in advance

Just click the ADVANCE ticket button for details

(Advance Ticket Box Office now open for 2017 tickets)

The other buttons link to details of the layouts, traders and other stands attending.

In total over 120 stands expected at the 2017 Show

Oh For A Simple Quiet Apology

It's been an odd week...

Several people have approached and shaken my hand, and that is not the norm for me (I am as you know, considered to be a cad, bounder and blackguard of the first water in some circles), but several of those who have approached me have caused me such surprise that I am genuinely in a something of a state of confusion.

I have also been pretty much told that the comments which caused much of the view that I am a traitorous blaggard were, in point of fact (as I made clear at the outset 3 or more years ago now) correct.

Lines have been drawn under unfortunate and untoward events, I am led to believe, which is in my opinion not ideal, but if good things are to come from doing so, then I am supportive of and enthusiastic about it.

Still, given the conversations (carried out both in front of impartial witnesses and in one case when I was not there to hear in person) it would be nice for a person with gravitas in a given collective, to simply say 'We apologise'. I don't want written retraction, nor witch hunts (because that way madness lies) , but I would dearly like a quiet but sincere couple of words of apology.

As I said, an odd week indeed.

A Question Of Scale

I am today having one of those soul searching days that wargamers sometimes have to face up to.

The question of scale.

Now, I am able to buy my armies in any scale I wish, and if it was simply a case of taking he 'Chequebook Wargamer' approach, I would just say 'Yeah, everything in 28mm', but I find myself looking at the assorted scales, their utility and the the joy a given scale gave me at a particular stage of my life.

I remember the weekend that Irregular released their 6mm stuff, and a load of us (Darren, were you part of that locust-like frenzy?) where the junior members of SWS cleared the stand of all 6mm armies at Triples. I was unconvinced until the last hour of the show, whereupon I found that there was nothing left, but a a friend'  in the shape of Roger took pity on my plight and sold me his 'spare' Frankish army - Bloody Frankish - where's the excitement in that?

For several years I used 6mm to play test an army under WRG conditions before buying it in the larger planned scale.

15mm was the first historical scale I played in, and I liked it because it could be painted well, comparatively quickly and when you fielded the entire New Model army at 1:20 it looked bally awesome.

Some of the best and biggest games I have played have been in 15mm , and some of the most memorable games in terms of friendships and 'simpler times' involved 15mm. Ambitiously large, day-long siege games with Darren, Roger, Keith and Simon were the norm in the school holidays.

28mm was always my chosen scale for fantasy gaming, and eventually became my 'go to scale as I became more and more drawn into the 'Because I can' school of gamers, who thought the money spent to be more important than the fun had or friendships formed. A collective hubcap pissing competition with little lead dollies ensued, but no more fun came from the figures themselves. Quite a pathetic state of affairs really.

54mm is a fun scale, as is 42mm but nobody really does much above skirmish in those scales apart from the 'Little Wars' brigade (and, much strength to their elbow pads because they have FUN).

So, here I am after a day spent at Hammerhead in Newark yesterday (nothing I haven't seen before to be honest - I was there for two hours and then came home) with a pile of Perry plastic figures in front of me, none too impressed, having spent two hours building 8 riders and 3 horses, and reflecting on how the same army would have cost me £40 in metal without the pain of having to build them.

Added to this, I am now thinking that unless I build two armies myself, I am stuck with waiting and trusting in friends ( a rare commodity these days) to get their own armies sorted.

Back to money - If it was simply that, there would be no problem because I'd just buy two armies and paint them. But, I don't really want to spend the rest of my valuable life, doing that. I want to be gaming. And why 28mm anyway?

I played 28mm mostly because that was what was played amongst my former compadres at the club I belonged to for many years. 

I could go with 15mm  and have some large games, with the models painted faster, but the temptation to buy more and thereby lead to the same end result vis time.

6mm looks great, but I know that I'd go at a 1:5 figure ratio and so the same end result, yet again.

I am not slavishly adherent to a given company and to be perfectly honest I love certain figure ranges that the 'In Crowd' would sneer at (they wouldn't be able to say why they were sneering of course, but their mates sneer, and so they must be seen to) so I cannot even make my plans and choices on that basis.

So, now, having typed for the last half hour, I am still back at square one, wondering how I should proceed.

It used to be so easy. By comparison, I was able to walk into my tailor on Friday, look at a few swatches, choose the tweed for a bespoke 3-piece, buy a fedora, ties and '8 panel' to compliment my choice, hand them £2000.00 and wait 12 weeks for delivery, with a couple of fittings. You will note that I am traditionally a jeans and T-shirt man, long of hair, but even the trips to the barbers are easy these days compared to wargaming choices.

Even my model railways are easy... I call the builder, tell him what I envisage, and he gets on with it. There is a question of scale there, of course but that is easily surmounted by the chosen theme and the space to be filled.

So, why is it that the hobby with which I am most intimate, and via which I pay the bills, so damned frustrating?

So, you are invited to give me your feedback on the pro's and cons of scales, and how your own tastes and memories down the years have drawn you to one scale over another.