Thursday, 31 October 2013

New Lead and WIP

It's been a tiresome working week.

I've not been feeling too well, and got seriously behind schedule with a couple of commissions.  Luckily one (now completed) was for an understanding friend and regular customer.  But I had to postpone a visit to London and also been having problems with e-mails rebounding on me.  All very frustrating...

Hobby time to the rescue!

A parcel arrived today from the lovely people at North Star/Artizan 

They're for my Egyptian Pulp project.  I think these will do
for my Cairo Police unit (including the elusive Gaffir) and 
a few other characters who I'm sure will be fun.

And the brushes were even out last weekend!

I was quite pleased with the results

I'm looking forward to tackling the new pieces.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Welcomes and Loki's Giveaway

First the welcomes, always a nice part of blogging.

Two new followers have joined the gang:  Karen Prestwidge and Sofie Vandersmissen.  Sofie runs an interesting-looking blog, Sofie's Paint Blog.

I have a long way to go before I catch up with Loki, who's celebrating his 200th follower with a giveaway (y'see what I did there?).  Loki (AKA Andrew) will be giving the lucky winner a limited edition figure that he's painted himself.  Details on how to enter, etc are here.

Friday, 25 October 2013

New Vacancy in the Order of Merit

The death of the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro on Wednesday means that there are now three vacancies in the Order of Merit (the last was created by the death of Lady Thatcher).

Which serves to remind me that I way behind in my intentions to blog on the Orders of Chivalry, and that I've been promising a post on the OM for about a year (I have actually got a draft I last edited on 29 Dec 2012).

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A-Z Reading Survey: Part 2

For Part 1 click here.

Major book hangover because of:

Not sure what's meant by this.

The last book that made my head spin when I finished it was All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman.

Number of bookcases you own:

Fifteen, some of which are double-stacked, plus all the boxes in the spare room and my mother-in-law's garage.

Not chez Diplomatist, unfortunately

One book you've read multiple times:

Lord of the Rings (because you have to...).

Preferred place to read:

Commuting on a train - that way I used to get into a pattern of an hour and a half a day.  I miss it.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:


Reading regret:

Not setting enough time aside to read these days.

Series you started and need to finish:

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

Three of your all-time favourite books:

R Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes
Sussannah Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Unapologetic fanboy for:

Not a fanboy at all.

Very excited for this release:

The next Joe Abercrombie.

Worst bookish habit:

Starting a book before finishing the last.

X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:

In this room:

HE Cardinale, Orders of Knighthood, Awards and the Holy See
Margery Allingham, Mystery Mile
CS Forrester, The Ship
Patrick O'Brien, Post Captain

Your latest book purchase:

EM Remarque, All Quite on the Western Front

Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waay too late):

Peter Hamilton, Judas Unchained

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stats Don't Matter

It was recently expressed on a blog (I forget whose, sorry) that, what with various bots, visitor stats don't matter.  Given the frequently of vampirestat as a traffic source in mine, it's a view a can sympathize with.

Despite that, I can't help having a warm feeling when I see that the blog has passed the 30,000 hits mark.  It doesn't seem too long ago that I celebrated 20,000 with much hoo-ha (in fact it was April).

A little number-crunching shows a nice steady rise

To go back to the original point, it was suggested that a truer mark that one should celebrate is the number of comments; as a measure of 'community interaction'.  All bloggers like to know they are being read and prompting thought in their readers.

In that light, I'm happy to say that the number of comments stands at 493 - a smidge off 500.

Why we should like round numbers is another question.

Thanks for visiting.  Thanks for following.  Thanks for all your comments and feedback.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Cairo Police Special Investigations Department

The Bimbashi

Robert Spiers was an Asyriologist working for the Palestine Exploration Fund when the First World War broke out.  Joining up, he found himself serving on Gen Allenby's staff and on detachment to his old Oxford friend Col Lawrence with the Arabs.  This reignited his thirst for adventure, and dissatisfaction with academic life.

After attending the Paris Peace Conference, he was surprised, but pleased, to received a job offer from Allenby (by now a Field Marshall, Viscount and High Commissioner in the new Kingdom of Egypt).  He became head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Cairo Police, with instructions to modernise the force as effectively as possible.  His successful introduction of forensic scientific methods had quick results, within a year doubling the conviction rates in cases of domestic poisoning.  This earned him the Order of the Nile (4th Class) and the special remit of ferreting out the foreign adventurers who were infesting the criminal underworld.

Cairo quickly learned that the Bimbashi always gets his man...

Despite his successes, Spiers soon realised that this underworld was more organised than had been accepted to this point.  Indeed, he began to suspect that behind the mass smuggling of antiquities feeding Western Eyptomania lay a plot to restore Ottoman rule.  He is to find that the truth is much more sinister and there is a much darker, more ancient evil involved...

The Special Investigations Department

"Spiers' Specials"

Known as "Spiers's Specials" the SID, hand-picked  from the best of the gendarme form an elite with a constant queue of applicants (given the dangers they face daily, this is a good thing!).   Seniority or adherence to protocol are not selection criteria: intelligence, initiative and the ability to get things done weigh much more.
The Ghaffir

They are led by the Ghaffir a NCO of uncertain background, whose years of undercover work has left him with a disdain for hierarchy and even uniform.  He is fiercely loyal to the Bimbashi, whose methods puzzle him but leave him in awe.  The pair have saved each other's lives on several occasions.

With a direct line to the Minister of the Interior and given his personal relationship with the High Commissioner, Spiers knows he can call on support at short notice from other elements of the police and the British army stationed in Egypt.

The Director

The young El-Seyed (top right)
In tackling the illicit antiquities, the SIU often works with, and occasionally reports to Dr El-Seyed, the Director of Antiquities at the Ministry of the Interior.
One of the Director's tasks is to
handle visiting V-I-Ps...

Although from an ancient family of hereditary tomb-robbers, El-Seyed appears to have chosen to be a gamekeeper rather than a poacher.  Back in the 1880s he had been a water-boy during the uncovering of the Sphinx; he soon rose up through the ranks of 'native helpers' to become the youngest Reis, or foreman, in the field.

In an early example of local talent-spotting, he was awarded a scholarship by the Egyptian Exploration Society to attend the University of Manchester.  He subsequently studied at the Collège de France and worked for the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale.

...but he is also handy
with that revolver.
His appointment as Director of Antiquities, part of the 'Egyptianisation' of the civil service, was a controversial one - European critics suggested that the old Ottoman system of 'promotion by stomach' had returned.  Little do they know that, in addition to his decades of experience of excavation and administration, a big factor in his rise is his membership of a certain Secret Brotherhood...

Ass you can probably see, the Bimbashi and constables will be from the Perry's' Egyptian Army range.  I haven't yet decided about the ghaffir.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Thoughts on the Egyptian Project

The Valley of the Tombs of the Kings - the very name is full of romance, and of  all Egypt’s wonders there is none, I suppose, that makes a more instant appeal to the imagination.
Howard Carter

Given the recent influx of new figures and encouragement, I've been thinking about my Egyptian Pulp project.

A little to-do list...
Red = done; Blue=partially done

(Possible) Leagues

The Cairo Police Special Investigations Department
Create league profile
Write background
Source and buy figures
Paint same

Villainous treasure hunters 
Create league profile
Write background (perhaps)
Source and buy figures
Paint same

St Margaret's Best - Eccentric Academics
Create league profile
Write background (Perhaps)
Source and buy figures - replace the no-shows from Black Cat (GRR!)
Paint same

An Ambiguous Brotherhood
Create league profile
Write background
Source and buy figures
Paint same

(Supernatural) Guardians of the Tombs (?)
Create league profile
Write background
Source and buy figures
Paint same

Passers-By, Shifty Types and Helpful Characters
Dept of Antiquities

Terrain and Scenery

Middle Eastern buildings
Set dressing for same
Mummy's Tomb
Set dressing for same


Get inspiration!


At The Wife's insistence, I add another league - a group of noble archaeologists collecting (under licence) for the British Museum, accompanied by a plucky boy reporter and his dog.

Please Don't Take the Pith...

By seemingly popular design, here are a few photos of me in a funny hat.

Slightly sinister in this on, I feel.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A New Gang in Town

Investigating rumours of treasure hunters in the area, a group of intrepid explorers enter a newly discovered tomb...

...only to find it empty!  But wait!  Has Scotty discovered a clue among the discarded crates?

Actually, these are the very kind gift +James Brewerton brought with him today when he interrupted his holiday to have lunch and give The Wife and I a painting masterclass.  Any resemblance between us and the figures is pure conjecture.  Apart from anything else, I'm not allowed a fez.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Meanwhile, Somewhere Near the Valley of the Kings

The only question now is how to get the booty passed the Cairo Customs and the Police's finest....*

The Bimbashi always gets his man!

This is my first attempt at the cardcraft Mummy's Tomb by Fat Dragon I downloaded from the Wargames Vault - in fact my first attempt at any cardcraft scenery at all. 

It's rough and ready, but certainly has potential.  I'll have another attempt once I've got myself more card, but I think I'll dispense with some of the modularity, add another pair of wall sections to increase the play area and do the floor a different way (at the moment it's pasted to pizza bases).

*This Blog does not advocate the looting of cultural heritage.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Not a Wednesday Welcome and Putting the Shed to Bed

Just a short post today as I'll be quite busy for the rest of the afternoon/evening.

First I must welcome new member Tomsche.  He has his own blog at Società di archeologia e cimeli, which you should all go and look at.

I should have welcomed him a few days ago, but I wanted to be anal and have a Wednesday Welcome - but then was overtaken by events yesterday.

Welcome Tomsche!  Apologies for the comment yesterday about dastardly Belgians.

Secondly, as it's a sunny day I thought I should take a photo for posterity before the shed is put to be for the winter.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

I'm Gobsmacked!

I'll let the pictures do the talking...

A huge thank you to my mystery benefactor!

And a thank you too to Gary Amos for organising, and donating the prizes for, such a splendid auction.

As Gary says, there's a fine bunch out there!

To me, this lot look like dastardly Belgians - just the sort to go dinosaur poaching...

A-Z Reading Survey: Part 1

This is one of those questionnaires that's going around,  It originates here - not a site I frequent, I promise.  It's aimed at fan girls, but there's some  nice questions, so here goes.

Author you've read the most books from:

I'm a bit of a completist and have to read everything I can get once I'm into an author.  So the question comes down to who is the most prolific.  I was going to say Anne McCaffrey's Pern books or Patrick O'Brian, but realised that the answer is of course Terry Pratchett.

Best sequel ever:

Hm, what does 'sequel' mean?  Any book in a series that's not the first?  The second book?   Sharing the same characters, etc?

In the looser sense, The Use of Weapons, the second of Iain M Banks' Culture Novels is probably one of my favorites.

As an actual sequel?  Well, it has to be The Eye in the Door, the second of Pat Barker's incomparable  Regeneration Trilogy.  If I could only recommend one book in this post, this would be the one.

Currently reading:

Paul Vallely, Pope Francis, Untying the Knots
John Baxter, A Pound of Paper
Cressida Cowell, How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel

Drink of choice whilst reading:

Rooibos.  The Wife's grandfather was South African.

E-reader or physical book:

Book.  Haven't got my head around e-readers yet, possibly because I've spend too much of my life looking at computer screens.  And I like the smell of books...

'Bidi, bidi, bidi!'
Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school:

Never thought about this.  Obviously one of the questions aimed at fan girls...  Well, me dating while at school would have been fictional anyway.

Assuming Fiesta doesn't count as fiction (every word of those letters was true!), I'd have gone for Col Dearing from 'Buck Rogers in the C25th'.

Glad you gave this book a chance:

Actually, I avoided Pratchett for a long time.  I was put off by the Josh Kirby covers and thought they were for saddoes.  I didn't read The Colour of Magic until my mid-20s, a little late for the average Pratchett reader, I suspect.  But after five years of almost exclusively reading church history, I was ready for a break.

Hidden book gem?

Loss and Gain by John Henry Newman.  Actually quite a cutting satire on the Oxford Movement.

Important moment in your book life:

  • Deciding that I was fed up with the Janet and John books at primary school.  Instead I found a book on the Risorgimento and read that.

  • Joining the Library.  The first book I took out of the public library was one of the Worst Witches.  The first I took out of a school library was Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the I took from my secondary school library was Starman Jones.

  • Deciding to stop reading a book - it was something by one of the Sitwells (possibly Sacheverell).  Up to then, I thought duty-bound to plough through and finish.  I had a similar break-though half way through the fifth book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series when (after about 4,000 pages!) we were introduced to another bloody claimant to the throne.

Just finished:

The last book I finished was Patrick Moore's autobiography, 80 Not Out.  That was ages ago, I'm afraid.  My opinion of it is here.

Kind of book you won't read:

There are books I wouldn't read of course, but nothing immediately springs to mind.

Longest book you've read:

Probably Lord of the Rings.  I've a nagging feeling that that shouldn't count though.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Pulp Loves Halloween!

Following a useful tip from LAF I went shopping today.

I tried the Poundshop, but didn't see anything today.  (Got The Wife some chocolate.)  I certainly didn't see these.

Wikos proved better hunting ground.  Not only did I spot the recommended packs of insects and bats, but I also got some giant cockroaches.  They had mice/rats as well - Giant Rat of Sumatra, anyone?  These are 65p per packet, or £1.00 for two.

I think giant bats and cockroaches spell out Extreme Peril, don't you?

'Bagged the blighter!'

Heading over to the toy section, I also spotted  some dinosaurs for £1.00.

I feel a Lost World adventure coming on - especially after reading this AAR.

Sainsbury's also have some nice skulls - a bag of 8 for £1.95.

24 Hour Sale at Prince August - Everything at 50%

The title says it all really - the sale is a celebration of the first anniversary of the website at starts at midnight on 15 Oct (UTC).  It will include paints, brushes and terrain materials.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A Sunday Round-Up

Sorry the posts have been a bit uneven lately.  I've been quite busy and a little tired.

Last weekend we had a visit from The Wife's aunt, which necessitated a deep clean (beforehand).  She's left her car with us she's gone on holiday, which means she'll be back...

Things to report:-

  • I've got a back-log of commissions for the research service.
  • I'm working on an article on awards of the Merchant Navy Medal for bravery afloat, which the editor of the LSARS journal is enthusiastic about and tells me will be the lead in the Feb 2014 number.
  • Prince August have reintroduced their 'Mould of the Day' offer.  Each day a different mould is half-price.  They're also promising a big offer to mark the first anniversary of their website on Weds 16th Oct, but won't tell us about it until Monday.  They are also producers of Mithral Miniatures and are offering free (almost worldwide) postage on orders over 50 Euros until 15 October.
Stop Press!
  • And here's a give-away that missed the deadline for inclusion above.  Palouse Wargaming Journal is celebrating its first anniversary with some great prizes.

Friday, 11 October 2013

This Week's Interesting Obits

Scott Carpenter (d. 10 Oct 2013)
Astronaut and aquanaut

BBC 11 Oct 2013

Sir Beachcroft Towse

Sir Beachcroft Towse VC, KCVO, CBE

Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Trowse was born on 23 April 1864, the eldest of two sons of Robert Beckwith Towse, a solicitor, and his wife Julia Ann Corcoran.  He was educated at Stubbington House, Gosport, and Wellington College.

In 1883 he joined the 3rd Seaforth Highlanders (the Highland Rifle Militia) and was promoted lieutenant in December 1885.  Shortly afterward, he transferred to the Gordon Highlanders.  He served with the Chitral Relief Force (1895), was at the storming of the Malakand Pass, was promoted captain in 1896, and served in the north-west frontier and Tirah campaigns (1897–8).   It was during the latter operations that one of the regiment's most famous Victoria Crosses was earned. Piper George Findlater, despite being wounded in both legs, continued to play the bagpipes during the assault.

'Action at the Malakand Pass' by SW Lincoln
held at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen

In October 1899 the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders were posted to South Africa to participate in the Boer War.  Towse took part in the advance on Kimberly and the Battle of Magerfontein (11 Dec 1899).  This was a major defeat for the British (one of the actions during 'Black Week'), the Highland Brigade being particularly badly mauled - it lost 53 officers and 650 soldiers, among them the brigade commander, Major General Wauchope, and two commanding officers.  Most of these casualties happened  when the  brigade charged the entrenced Boers, who opened fire at 400 yards.  The Gordons were sent in to reinforce the brigade  but suffered similarly heavy casualties.  For his attempt to carry away his mortally wounded colonel and for later rallying his force of twelve men to attack some 150 Boers, Towse was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Col GTF Downmnan
On the 11th December, 1899, at the action of Magesfontein, Captain Towse was brought to notice by his Commanding Officer for his gallantry and devotion in assisting the late Colonel Downman, when mortally wounded, in the retirement, and endeavouring, when close up to the front of the firing line, to carry Colonel Downman on his back; but finding this not possible, Captain Towse supported him till joined by Colour-Sergeant Nelson and Lance-Corporal Hodgson. 
On the 30th April, 1900, Captain Towse, with twelve men, took up a position on the top of Mount Thaba, far away from support. A force of about 150 Boers attempted to seize the same plateau, neither party appearing to see the other until they were but 100 yards apart. Some of the Boers then got within 40 yards of Captain Towse and his party, and called on him to surrender. He at once caused his men to open fire and remained firing himself until severely wounded (both eyes shattered), succeeding in driving off the Boers. The gallantry of this Officer in vigorously attacking the enemy (for he not only fired, but charged forward) saved the situation, not, whithstanding the numerical superiority of the Boers.
Trowse was presented his decoration by Queen Victoria, who made him Sergeant-at-Arms in 1900. King Edward VII reappointed him in 1902, and in 1903 he was admitted to the Honorary Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms in which he served until 1939.

Although the wounds sustained by Trowse at Mount Thaba had destroyed his eyes, this barely seemed to slow him down.  In 1901 he joined the council of the British and Foreign Blind Association, later the National Institute for the Blind (NIB) as vice-chairman (he was chairman from 1923 until 1944, and after that its president).  He was very active in touring the country, promoting the well-being and welfare of the blind.

Soldiers blinded by gas in the First World War

On the outbreak of the First World War Towse, who had become an expert braille reader and typist went to France to assist wounded soldiers - the following year he was appointed an honorary staff captain (without pay and allowances) for base hospitals.

It was at his suggestion that the NIB set up a subcommittee to look after blinded servicemen.  This developed into St Dunstan's Hostel (now Blind Veterans UK), founded in 1915.  After the war he saw a need to assist former servicemen who were went blind through causes other than the war, or for the blind dependents of servicemen.  He therefore established the Special Fund for Blind Ex-Servicemen (the Sir Beachcroft Towse Ex-Service Fund).  In 1917 he founded the Comrades of the Great War, and as chairman he travelled during two years over 12,000 miles in the British Isles. This organization merged with others to form the British Legion, of which he became a national vice-president in 1927, remaining in office until his death.

During the Second World War Towse made his home available for the rehabilitation of civilians blinded through air raids - becoming the first Queen Elizabeth Home of Recovery.

These services were recognised by the Crown.  He was appointed a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John in 1916, a CBE in 1920 and in 1927 a KCVO.

On 25 October 1892 he married Gertrude, younger daughter of John Christie, a stockbroker; they had no children and she died in 1935.  Sir Beachcroft died at home in Goring-on-Thames on 21 June 1948.

The Medals

Towse's medals are held at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen.

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