Sunday, 30 July 2017

Captain's Log...

I thought I'd let you read what was/is the epilogue of my first book, whilst I recover from all the building work of the last 6 weeks and re-discover my muse and the time to indulge it:

I hope you enjoy...

2011 had been a turbulent year. The manuscript for this book was initially completed back in March and I had edited and added elements here and there, sending copies and excerpts to friend and foe alike. To my surprise (and I confess, delight) my efforts were applauded. It seemed that I’d hit the vein from which the lifeblood of memories flows, reminding people of their own past escapades in the microcosm which is gaming in all its forms. 

   I was on the crest of an emotional tsunami. I had done it – I had created something that was of value to someone, somewhere. Even if my manuscript languished in my safe I had made a record of my life and of those of others. It was a time capsule of lost youth that had given me much cause to smile and indeed mourn during its creation. 

   I learned of the passing of parents of friends along the way, driving home the fact that a quarter of a century had passed by, although, it remained fresh in my memory as if it had been only last week that everything happened.

In the summer, Anne Bishop, who was only in her own summer years passed away after long and debilitating period of illness.

   Anne, who I referred to in the book as Anna, long suffering partner of Lloyd was a petite, glamorous, no-bullshit lady of genuine warmth and wicked wit. As I have already related, Anne often curbed Lloyd’s big brother-like teasing and natural propensity for profiteering from any transaction to the extent he may have liked. Anne was in her own small way like a big sister, Lloyd a big brother. She was that rare thing in this hobby – a normal person. Everyone who knew Anne will miss her sorely. I said earlier I wanted her to see this book – She never did.

   Anne’s passing focussed a lot of the ‘old guard’ of my youth. I think a number of us realised just how tenuous is our grip on this planet and how temporary is our teNancy agreement with the universal landlord. Old hatchets were buried and acquaintances renewed, and for that I shall always be grateful, but what a price to pay…

   A matter of weeks later, after a debilitating round of hospital stays, my father in law also passed away. Nes, known to Kayte, as ‘Daddy Bear’ was a straight talking man who had little time for the arty types such as your humble narrator and perhaps you may recall that my first meetings with him were in my eyes at least somewhat abrupt. He responded to my statement that I was an artist by commenting ‘Aye, a piss artist!’

   Over the years – but not soon enough – I got to know Nes better and learned that comments such as that which had wounded me so many years ago, delivered with a poker face, were fundamentally who he was. Nes, I realised was a far more complex man than I had suspected, who loved his family even more than his beer and his garden. He had a puckish way which could make a statue smile. It goes without saying that his family will miss him, including a certain ‘piss artist’.

   And so we reach another year and my attempts to contact friends from those halcyon days of which you have read have paid dividends. I managed to touch base with Lisa and P.A, the two Pauls and many others. In fact, Paul ‘B’ has created an online community solely for those of us from those hedonistic days of yore and it’s becoming a great place to recount those long-lost days of our youth with the people who were there and who mattered more than we realised at the time.

   It was the conversation with Lisa which really made me add this particular chapter after information imparted during that conversation literally floored me and left me with a sense of anger, the likes of which I have seldom experienced in my forty-odd years.
   You will of course recall that way back in chapter 30, I recounted how I was banned from my beloved local gaming emporium and threatened with having my spine split in twain should I ever darken the doorstep by Clive.

   Well, as I conversed with Lisa, I broached the subject of her being ‘fired’ which you will also recall was recounted all those pages back. Her response laid me low, like an unseen blow.

   ‘I didn’t get the 'boot' from Games Workshop.’ This stated with a laugh.

   ‘You didn’t?’ I was reeling here. Those eight words literally hit me like a sledgehammer to the cranium. And here, I recounted the reasons that I had been given all those years before, the effects of which had warped my view of the world and hung upon my psyche, like saddlebags from the rump of malnourished mule.

   'You used to get stuff for me at discount you will recall? I was told that you had pocketed my cash and then I was in receipt of the proverbial stolen goods. That's why they banned me - apparently.’ The memories of Clive’s threats to my spine came rushing back.

   ‘Is that what they told you?’ Lisa laughed and continued. 

‘Frank and Chris had left. They were going to put me back on part time hours, so, I got job at ‘Tie Rack’ and left. I'd just met my future husband as I recall. I’d worked at Games Workshop from the age of 16 until I was nearly 20.’ 

   I was well and truly running on adrenalin by this point and reaching for my mobile phone to get hold of Lloyd and try to make some sense of what I’d just been told. His phone was engaged and so I returned to the conversation with Lisa, expressing may feelings of mixed anger, amazement and euphoria at what she had just imparted.

‘Peter left before me. I loved him - he was the best boss I ever had. It was, Joe in charge, Clive hated me (and here I omit the reason she gave as it’s frankly not relevant and I cannot substantiate it). 

   ‘Christ on a bike, I spent nearly a quarter of a century carrying that chip on my shoulder Lisa.’ My head really was swimming. It was as if I had managed to break the surface, having had my head held under water for longer than is advisable.

   ‘Oh my god… What a set of hypocrites.’ Lisa it seemed had got a handle on just what an issue this had been for me. ‘They were all doing it.’ The latter referring to her colleagues purchasing games etc for friends, on their generous staff discounts.

   By now I was incandescent with rage. Seldom have I been so.

   ‘Lisa, to say that I am fuming is somewhat of an understatement. Those bastards ruined my life!’

   ‘Sorry love, but I swear its not true. If so, how come I used to still go into Games Workshop? I told you that I didn’t get on with Joe and Clive. Joe once said I’d stolen some 50p earrings - remember them, on the front counter?  I started laughing at him and it went downhill from there. But I left with a good reference from Peter. They had no grounds at all to do that to you! If mobile phones been about back then, we could have sorted it all out in half hour.’    

   It all made sense. Kids were an annoyance and I was the best known of those annoyances by my passion for the hobby. Indeed, I reminded Lisa of the time that I had visited Games Workshop twice a day for almost the entire summer holidays, to see whether the game ‘Golden Heroes’ – which in all events was dire and soon discontinued – had been delivered with the weekly new releases. 

   ‘I'm sorry if I seem bitter Lisa. I walked around thinking I'd helped to get you fired. I stopped going to the Runelords and lost a lot of my mates because of that.’ The adrenalin was hitting my stomach and I felt sick.

   ‘Don’t be sorry at all... I honestly am gob-smacked. You speak to someone who you’ve not seen for nearly 30 years, and with nothing but good memories, and then, you find out something like this.’ Lisa it seemed almost as ‘rattled’ as I was and, I decided, discretion was the better part of valour - I wouldn’t impart to her the rumours that I had heard about her over the years by certain parties.

   So there you have it. Straight from the proverbial equine’s facial orifice, I had what appeared to be the ‘real story’. Twenty-five years of stress dropped off me in the space of an hour. Once again I had been shown that real life is indeed, a bugger.

   I think it shows just how adults and children differ. We often assume – erroneously – that teenagers are just young adults. Maybe in terms of stature and intelligence they are. But in terms of psychology and emotional maturity they are not. What seems to be a ‘wicked wheeze’ in the eyes of an adult and their peers can so damage the young target of their so-called wit, that the teenager in question carries psychological scars into their own adulthood.

   The realization of this by your guide during the preceding seventy thousand words, or thereabouts - let’s not be picky, now that we’ve become such good friends – has as I have said already, been quite cathartic. 

   I suppose that the teenage me, that boy who is familiar yet so distant from who I am now, would have plotted some kind of petty revenge on the antagonists. But no, I think, that to coin a phrase, I shall endeavour to wipe it from my memory, like a greasepaint mask as a certain progressive rock ensemble put it. Life is short and the majority of my own is behind me, whereas for that boy it was ahead of him, red in tooth and claw.

   I can’t change the past, and to try to correct the history books so to speak would be a mammoth undertaking. Therefore, I’ll continue to be who I am to everyone, loved by some and loathed by others. After all, it’s both love and loathing that have allowed me to write this book and prove beyond a doubt that real life truly is, a bugger! 

   Hark! I think I hear a fat lady singing in the distance…


Paul 'B' was Paul Stephens who passed away just before Christmas of 2016. We had 'history' over a woman nearly 30 years ago. I think we had eventually got past it and both grown a little as a result.

P.A was Pete Armstrong. He also passed away early in 2017. He was a mentor and a tormentor, but I owed him so much.

Both, died  tragically young, and are missed more than I can truly convey. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Green Is The Colour

As I have time on my hands today after yesterday's marathon working day, I decided to finish the first dozen of my 1/300 sci-fi models.

I used a white base coat, then sprayed them with Halfords fluorescent green, glazed over with Army Painter 'Military Green' ink wash to add definition whilst keeping the 'glow'. The models themselves are produced by Brigade Models.

Now these are not the same standard as I paint to for clients because my stuff is just for me and I want neat models that I can game with before I retire.

I am really pleased with the retro look.


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that jazz...

Today should have seen the end of the building work. I had planned to work until I had completed all my work for the remainder of this week, in one sitting, clocking up in the end a massive 15 hours at my desk, having risen at a little after 4AM and 5 hours sleep. The plan was to start the sealing of the plasterwork on Thursday.

Alas, yesterday, I presented my builders with some very good bottles of vodka - and last night they both drank them!

So, when I heard the van pull up a full hour an a half late, with only one of them in it, you may imagine my mood and indeed the colour of my internal dialogue.

Now I am crossing my fingers that they complete it all on Thursday so that I can begin to get my home back again.

I've been hard at work on lots of 6mm stuff for clients in the last couple of weeks as well as 1/600 coastal warfare models for Heroics & Ros and more 15mm stuff for two other clients. But, I also managed to make a start on my own 6mm sci-fi with a test model and the beginnings of my first two platoons, all finished in a subtle colour scheme and embellished with the excellent decals from Fighting Pirannah (yes that's how they spell it) Graphics:

Fluorescent green is just so 80s!

I also ordered a drop ship, to deliver my power armoured infantry units to the battlefield. I confess that when it arrived from Daemonscape, I got a hard-on:

This morning a box arrived from Brigade Models with another 240 infantry and another 8 power armoured troops along with some more AFVs, so I think that I am almost finished buying stuff for my sci-fi project.

There's not much more to report other than to reiterate that 6mm is definitely the way I am going now. I think it has so many positive aspects that it'd be stupid not to. That realistic look when you have a proper army deployed, takes some beating and the the the more realistic appearance of terrain also enhances the gaming experience.

I'm currently ploughing through the Lord & Lands rules as well as Future War Commander and my appetite is showing no signs of be satisfied yet :)

Well, if you will excuse me, I have been awake 17 hours now and I am back at my desk again in just under 9 hours, so I will bid you a fond farewell for the time being.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Despite Living In Beirut, An Excellent Day Was Had

 After 4 weeks (with several more ahead) of living in what is a building site with windows, redolent of those 80s news segments from downtown Beirut, today, I made my second visit to the Joy Of Six, 6mm themed convention here in Sheffield, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable day - and an expensive one!

Let me say from the outset, that if you think that 6mm is a waste of time or simply doesn't have anything for you, you really should make the effort to attend, because you are missing a genuine treat.

We arrived at about 10AM and I delivered a few thousand 6mm models to assorted clients, including some new releases for Heroics & Ros, including Danish Centurions, T55s, and WW2 Italian infantry, all of which were. joy to paint.

The venue is the atrium of the main Sheffield Hallam University campus and is bright, airy and a very relaxing venue for a show. The atmosphere of the show is probably the best of any I have attended in the last 25 years with only Britcon coming close. I genuinely believe that the days of the big show are numbered, and if it results in more shows like J.O.6 then I'll shed few if any tears.

The staff and organisers are friendly, the attendees are friendly and the traders are equally friendly, sharing a passion for tiny yet perfectly formed things. Nobody smelled bad, smiles and good manners were abundant. What more could you want?

The bring and buy seemed a bit of a waste of time and this would be my only (and a minor) criticism.

The food was very well priced and the quality outstanding. Two bacon sandwiches and two large hot drinks cost £6.85, and the catering staff were kept very busy, serving all with smiles and banter which simply poured more goodness into the cereal bowl of life. My wife has to have her bread buttered, and the gentleman serving me did not make the fuss and grumbling noises of the catering staff at the Partizan show, a few months back. In fact I would like to thank those staff for being professional and friendly. After all we gamers can be a fickle bunch can't we?

When another of our party arrived, he grabbed two excellent slices of fresh, home made pizza and a large coffee for a fiver...

We set up camp in the seating area as my wife is not in the rudest of health recently and we chatted amiably with friends, clients and traders who dropped by. It was most agreeable.

The display and participation games were of the usual high standard and it was noted that there was a distinct lack of the miserable buggers, you seem to find at many shows these days.

30 minutes into the show, and I'd spent £180. By 4PM when we left, that total had reached £310.

My wife, a sceptic of the scale spent £99 with Baccus on a shedload of Napoleonic models for the Peninsular - for her personal use, you understand.

The traders were very busy indeed, and never seemed to be idle for more than a few moments, because of course, potentially every attendee was a customer, with the focus being on one scale.

When you see a table with a few thousand figures and 500+ trees, it really makes you want to go and spend some of your hard earned lolly. And I did...

I spent around £100 on sci-fi models from Brigade Models, then another £50 on scenery from the same company - And I got a LOT for that money too.

Then it was over to Leven Miniatures and a few fantasy buildings and a stunning rendition of Rourke's Drift which will fit into about the same area as a sheet of A4 paper. An exquisite little model!

Next, we visited Rapier Miniatures, who were telling me about their Glorantha range of 6mm models, and their plan for a massive Runequest / Glorantha game next year at the show - Stirring stuff if like me, you are a fan of the Glorantha mythos. Anyway, I walked away from there with a massive Trojan army, whilst Kayte and Dave ended up with Egyptian and Assyrian armies.

We then repaired to the nearby Red Lion pub where they serve a rather stunning Sunday roast which is tasty and almost too large to manage, washed down with a few alcohol free beers before returning to the show and spending another £50 on a few bits from Brigade and a Prussian army of the FPW from Baccus.

Dave had purchased a couple of raffle tickets and at 15:45 when it was drawn, he won a set of the Command Horizon sci-fi rules - Jammy git!

And so ended a most enjoyable and relaxing day.

I would like to thank Pete Berry of Baccus and Jon Skotulanski of Wargames Emporium along with all of the staff who made the day possible and without whom it would not have been the well oiled machine of an event that it was. And of course thanks to, to those people who presented the games which showcased what this most underrated of all the wargaming scales, can really be!

I am already looking forward to J.O.S 2018!


Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Joy Of Six

Let me begin with an apology.

I apologise for the lack of posts of late, but as you may recall, we'd  undertaken to have the DarkTower re-worked. Alas, what was to be a straightforward renovation of bathroom and kitchen has now become all of that plus the knock through of the dining room, plastering of three locations, replacement of a floor and three ceilings.

Three weeks in, and we are living in only two of the 8 rooms here at the Tower. I am working in some of the most cramped conditions I have had to endure in twenty years.

But, it's given me a lot of time to think of things game related. I've come to one big decision and that is to move over to 6mm for all but my 40K, Cape Wars and Warhammer Fantasy projects.

It all began when, lost in reveries of my misspent (or is that well spent?) youth, I was wont to remember the Triples that irregular Miniatures released it's 6mm range. We were al pretty hooked in our group of Young Olympians, with the exception of your correspondent who, at the eleventh hour when the rest of the gang had cleared out pretty much the entire show stock, decided he would be less of a martinet and join the club. Alas, Irregular had sold out on the Sunday afternoon but one of my mates took pity and sold me a Frankish army pack, which was frankly uninspiring when compared to the other armies Roger, Simon and the rest of the crew were jealously guarding.

But, the scale snob in me, never really went away, and despite the fact that I arguably paint some of the nicest commercially available 6mm you will ever see, I have stubbornly hung on to the notion of larger scales.

Well, that is right out of the window. I have painted so much 6mm that I have begun to once again see the sheer beauty in this scale. Last weekend, I was taking lunch with my gaming buddy, and he was berating me with a series of 'What did I tell you all those years ago?' comments. But, he was correct.

And so with the Joy Of Six show here in my home city on the 16th of July, I have set u a fighting fund to cover the cost of around 5000 (probably more) models.

As the blurb states (and it's all 100% true!):

'The venue for the show is the Heartspace at Sheffield Hallam University. This is a large stylish atrium which will give a light and airy atmosphere to the event.
The venue also has brilliant easily accessible on-site catering, and the menu will be tailored to wargamers at reasonable prices.
The opening times are 10am-4pm and the entrance fee is £3

I'm certainly starting with 6mm sci-fi, fantasy, 18th century and renaissance. Beyond that I have some other ideas, but the world as they say, is my mussel.

I've been reading Craig Armstrong's superb little rule set 'Lord & Lands' which are streamlined yet have a lot of tactical opportunities and multi-genre flexibility.  Indeed I am looking at the possibility of modifying them for 20th century urban unrest.

If you can get to Sheffield on the 16th, I'd really, really suggest you visit the show. You will be blown away by the quality and scope of the games on display, and what;'s more there are great bacon and sausage sandwiches, decent coffee, and if you want a bloody good lunch, the Red Lion on Matilda Street, a couple of minutes easy walk from the venue, offers a truly outstanding Sunday lunch.

Even if the idea of 6mm does not appeal, give the show a visit, because I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what the scale has to offer the gamer.