Sunday, 30 June 2013

More Terrain

Following my adventures with fences last week, I've continued to concentrate on terrain this weekendThe Wife expressed amazement that I could use a craft knife without bleeding*.

I've been building some terraced housing based on a 'How To' on Matakishi's Tea House and am quite pleased with the results so far.  There's also quite a handy site for generating pdfs of brickwork I'll be trying out. 

However, our gaming is going to be based in Egypt and the Middle East for the near future, so I've been working on my generic pyramids and need to put together a suitable village and oasis.

The postman was very kind and helped by delivering these on Saturday morning

These are from Scotia Grendel Productions, and I'm quite pleased with then despite the fact that the casts will require a little cleaning up.  I'll certainly be buying more of their scenics.

They also have a range of nice beasties in their fantasy range.  I couldn't resist getting this...

And while in town on Thursday, I nipped into Oxfam and bought his cousin for 99p.

Quite impressive even with 58mm figures

She who is closest to me now informs me that I need to build a Nautilus (preferably with lots of rivets and brass bits!).

*On her return from her trip away, The Wife looked at what I'd done and asked two questions:
"Why on earth would we want all those fences and ponds?"
"Just how many lollipops have you eaten?"

Now the world can see what endears her to me...

On the other hand, when I was taking the old cassette off the strimmer to see what kind I needed to buy, she also said "Well, if you paint that black and add some rivets..."

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A Welcome

As I've said before, welcoming new followers is one of the great pleasures of writing a blog.

Today's victim  new member is James Brewerton.  James has his own blog, the Exiles Wargames Painter, but he's also earned himself the sobriquet "Great Idea" James by his role in Bloggers for Charity and, his latest, Blog-Con.

I'm afraid there's somewhat of a scatter-gun approach here as regards content, but I hope you find something of interest James.

This Week's Interesting Obits

Prof Mick Aston (d. 24 Jun 2013).  Archaeologist
BBC obit, 25 Jun 2013
Daily Telegraph obit, 25 Jun 2013
Guardian obit, 25 Jun 2013
Independent Obit, 26 Jun 2013

Hans Hass (d. 16 Jun 2013).  Underwater film pioneer.
Daily Telegraph obit, 24 Jun 2013

Friday, 28 June 2013

My First Pulp Alley League

Here's the roster for my first Pulp Alley league - a group of baddies.

I haven't used any of the Weird attributes from Perilous Island, although they would have been appropriate for this league.  Instead I wanted to be sure we've got the basic ruleset sussed beforehand.

It'll be interesting to see how these brawlers pan out against a group of shooters.

I'll be posting this roster to the Pulp Alley Forum for comments...


And here's a second...

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Kafka for Kiddies

I heard an interesting report on the World Service yesterday about a version of The Metamorphosis for children (written because the author's own children had demanded that he read it to them).  Unfortunately, I can't find any info about the report on the BBC website.

The discussion was brief, but basically was an expression on surprise that the plot - Gregor wakes up one morning, discovers that he has transformed into a beetle, become alienated from his family and the world, and eventually dies - is suitable for children.  There was also the argument that children would miss the deep themes behind the story.  Both of those points are nonsense.  Children's literature has always been dark (very dark!) and has always covered deep themes of alienation, etc.

It seems to me that, if done well, Kafka could be very suitable for children...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

I Like It When a Plan Works Out...

I'm sorry for not blogging much this week - I've been a little busy with the research services and The Wife has had to visit her mother, whose had a new knee.  This has impacted on my leisure time...

But there has been opportunity for some fun.

Before The Wife went away I'd bought Pulp Alley as part of my master plan to get her interested in wargaming.

As I've explained before, a prerequisite for this is to remove the 'war' aspect.  She's not keen on squidgy monsters (which rules out most of the Cthulhu Mythos) and, sadly, won't harbour killer robots.  However, back in the day we did share a thing for Intrepid Explorers and she is, among other things, a Lady Archeologist and a Bogart fan, so Pulp Alley seemed just right to get her attention.  And it has.  And oddly, she doesn't seem to mind squiddy (as opposed to squidgy) monsters, so they might very well be making an appearance (as might killer robots....)  [She doesn't read this blog.]

Several discussions on league rosters followed in order to prepare shopping and to-do lists.  'We must have a league with Queen Victoria in it' and 'So I can have a Viking as a side-kick, right?'  [This prompted a discussion of the possibility of having Doctor Who and Companions.  It's not going to happen.]  I agreed that it was perfectly possible to have the Viking, as he is likely to be one of the survivors of a Lost Colony found in the Far North who joined the league due to the debt of honour he owes the leader.

I had planned to spend this week-end ignoring any work or household tasks and to work on the Aeronef, but I had a bit of a rush job come in yesterday.  In the end, I only found this afternoon available for such 'mucking about'. So, thinking of the wise man who said that you can never have too much terrain, I knocked up some crude fencing, an even cruder outhouse and a couple of ponds.  You never know when you might need a fence, a pond or an outhouse...

Anyone know who does 28mm ducks?
I even resurrected my pyramid scheme.  Sadly though, an attempt to give it a sandstone look is more akin to apricot!  [Was it John Hurt or Jeremy Irons who got into trouble with the Irish authorities for painting his castle pink?]

Part of the master plan of getting The Wife involved is that she will then teach me crafty techniques...

Friday, 21 June 2013

Books and Stuff

A weekly round-up of my book news.

What I've been reading this week...

The blurb on the cover of Dauntless, the first book in the Lost Fleet series, says that Jack Campbell writes some of the best military science-fiction around.  Perhaps so, but if that's true, it doesn't say much for the sub-genre.

I've read several reviews of the book along the lines that the plot is thin, the main character is one-dimensional and that the other characters are just sketches, yet it pulls you in and gets you to read on.  I got about half-way through and thought 'Yes, they're right.  There's very little to this, but I bear this.'  And then I realised that I was being asked to spend my time and energy - and let's face it, with a long series of books - my money, on  something that was merely tolerable.  Life isn't long enough for that - there are too many decent books out there that I haven't read.

I've got nothing against poor writing as long as it's enjoyable, but this isn't.  I stopped there, put it on the pile for the charity shop, and went in search of something better...

I wrote the above on Tuesday.  

I don't know about the 'search for something better', but I started Robert Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon, a 1942 book of his that I hadn't come across before (though I suppose I've been reading his books for almost 35 years!).

And I carried on with The War on Hospital Ships.


What I've bought this week....

Nothing.  Which I know will come as a surprise to regular readers.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Books and Stuff

A regular round-up of my book news.

What I've been reading this week...

I carried on with Lost Fleet: Dauntless and started Stephen McGreal, The War on Hospital Ships, 1914-1918.

What I bought this week...

Stephen McGreal, The War on Hospital Ships, 1914-1918 - £9.99.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Garter Day Ceremony

Next Monday, 17 June 2013, sees this year's Garter Day Ceremony at Windsor Castle.

Garter Day, 1948
Given that the order was founded by Edward III in 1348, the ceremony is oddly modern: it dates only to 1948.  That was the date in which George VI re-instituted the formal investiture ceremony, which had been in abeyance since 1805, marking the order's 600th anniversary.  At that investiture, which took place on 23 April, St George's Day, six new members, including the current Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, were invested as companions of the order.

At the same time, the order was reinstated as the personal gift of the monarch - it had previously been an appointment made on the advice of ministers.

The ceremony now customarily takes place in June - for some reason the first day of Royal Ascot Week (presumably on the basis that most members would therefore be within traveling distance of Windsor!).

As we have seen, new members are named on St George's Day - this year there only being one, Lord Stirrup.  The Queen formally invests new companions of the order with the insignia in the Throne Room of Windsor Castle.  The insignia are proffered by the Garter King of Arms, the Usher of the Order (better known as Black Rod) and the Secretary of the Order.  The admonitions addressed to the new companions are in turn read by the prelate (always the Bishop of Winchester) and chancellor (currently the Duke of Abercorn) of the order.  These admonitions and oaths date back at least as far as Henry VIII's time, probably even further.  Two senior knights will assist in the vesting of the new knight.

Afterwards the Queen entertains the members and officers of the order, with their spouses, at a lunch in the Waterloo Chamber.  A group photo will be taken.

After lunch the Knights process on foot to a service in St. George's Chapel, wearing their blue velvet mantels, and black velvet hats with white plumes.  The processional route is through the Upper, Middle and Lower Wards of the castle to St. George's Chapel. The procession is led by the Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle and the Military Knights of Windsor.
Crests and Banners of the KGs - the kiwi with the
ice axe is that of Sir Edmund Hiliary
In St George's a religious service is held and the companion is literally installed - assigned a stall in the choir of the chapel.  This stall is identified by a heraldic display: a sword below a helm topped with a crest, and above, a banner emblazoned with the companion's arms.  For more information on these devices, take at look at the website of Ian G Brennan, woodcarver to the Royal Household who creates them.   A brass stall plate is attached to the back of the stall displaying its member's name, arms and date of installation. On a member's death, these symbols are removed - the Military Knights of Windsor carry the banner of the deceased member and offer it to the Dean of Windsor, who places it on the altar.  The stall plates, however, are not removed; rather, they remain permanently affixed somewhere about the stall, so the stalls of the chapel provide a sense of continuity.
A Knight of the Garter in full fig

After the service, the members of the order return to the Upper Ward by carriage, presumably for tea and buns.

Garter insignia, temp Charles I

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Monday, 10 June 2013

Books and Stuff

Iain Banks, 1954-2013
It's sad to have to start this week's round-up of my book news with yesterday's announcement of the death of Iain Banks.

I don't feel comfortable saying that I enjoyed Banks' books (after all nobody wants to sound as if they're a twisted pervert), but I read all the Iain M Banks books and a few of the 'straight' novels.    It would be difficult to pick a favorite - Use of Weapons, The Player of Games, Inversions and Look to Windward stand out for me.

He was a master of imagination, with the power to write scenes that stick with you years afterwards (the cannibal-cult in Consider Phelbas or practically anything from Surface Detail were particularly memorable in a disturbing way.  I think the Daily Telegraph's description sums it up sums it up -
Novelist of hallucinatory brilliance who attracted notoriety with  his grotesque and bizarre tales

And by all accounts he was a very nice guy.  I recommend you read the excellent obit here.

What I've been reading this week...

From the sublime to the ridiculous...  Sometimes you need a bit of guff with cardboard-thin characterization.  I started reading Jack Chambers, Lost Fleet: Dauntless.

What I've bought this week...

Annie Tyler, The Amateur Marriage - 50p

James Risk, Henry Pownall, David Stanley & John Tamplin, Royal Service: Vol II - £6.50
David Stanley, Royal Service: Vol III - £4.50
John Van Der Kiste, The Georgian Princesses - £1.00

Saturday, 8 June 2013

"So, What's An Aeronef?" The Wife Said

At heart I'm a double-sided sticky-tape and toilet roll sorta guy, so I like to read people's adventures in scratch-building.  "One day," I thought, "I'll have a go at that..."

An Insect-Class river gunboat - HMS Fly, I think

This is the kind of thing I'd like to be able to build!  I once took a two-year job in a museum partly because it had one of the best collections of ships' models on display in the country...

One one of my trawls of local charity shops I got some goodies.

40p well spent!

Dinosaurs put to one side for later fun and two minutes with a screwdriver later, I have some interesting looking bits and the start of a little project.  (Also a little box labelled 'Screws: Small, Phillips' if you'd believe The Wife!).

Having removed the screw casings and attached a deck, I found that the vessel was a little too small for 28mm figures, but that it suited a HAT Gardner Gun Gun and crew I had.  I was also getting an African Queen vibe

But I wanted something a little more substantial - I also wanted a VSF aerial craft.  Needing to beef it up, I did what every scratch-builder must do - head for the gash bin. 

In my case, the gash bin is a gash drawer in my Well-Appointed Shed

I needed more bits!

Various configurations were tried.  I wanted a boiler and smokestack, and it occurred to me that the Gardner would need to be positioned so that it could be used both in aerial combat and in air-to-ground work. 

Therefore I decided on a flying bridge with a pair of Gardners - this freed up the bow for some main armament.  The bridge would also serve a place for the binnacle, ship's wheel and look-outs.

This bridge is too big - I'm looking at smaller solutions

I'm currently thinking about railings - rope, chain or canvas?  I'm currently inclined to canvas if I get it to work.

And looking at inspiration in some of my favorite places...

"Well Done Condor!"

To be continued...

Friday, 7 June 2013

WIP - The Camera Never Lies

As my Mysterious (but hopefully Work-Related) Project requires me to gain some proficiency with a digital camera and up-loading pictures, The Wife suggested that I practice by photographing and posting photos of some of the things I have been cluttering the kitchen table with...

I apologise to those of you who are much better that I at this sort of thing, but what have I learned?
  • Well, I'm not going to win prizes for either photography or my painting.
  • I have to practice both. 
  • The camera is a useful painting tool - it picks up all sorts of errors that I didn't with my glass.
  • I probably need my eyes testing and new glasses - this might help with detail and depth perception.
  • My hands still shake like nobodies' business.
  • Everything is  more fun with dinosaurs!
But I paint for fun and relaxation, so I'm not too bothered with 0.10mm accuracy.  It would be nice to get better though...

Any tips?

A trio ('No it's not, it's a Toberlone!')

The white it terrible.  The Mad Scientist (killer robots, for the inventing of) started off with a black lab-coat, but The Wife persuaded me to re-paint it.  I preferred the black.  The Skipper appears to be glossy here, but isn't in the flesh.

I've also been experimenting with different basing.  I don't thing the scientist works at all...

Scale-wise, I think my 10p dinosaur works quite well.  I'm not sure about picking out the rivets on the Steam Contraption Thingie though.


Today I'm not to paint anything smaller than a shed!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Prince Phillip and the Order of New Zealand

The Queen presents the Duke of Edinburgh with New Zealand's  highest
honour, the Order of New Zealand in the presence of Sir Lockwood Smith,
High Commissioner for New Zealand, at Buckingham Palace

In case anyone needed to know why I haven't done a Royals in Medals post for the Duke of Edinburgh, here's an answer - his already complex rack just keeps on growing!

Only five weeks on from receiving Canadian honours, Prince Phillip was today invested with the insignia of the Order of New Zealand by the Queen, as sovereign of the order.  To be fair though, this award (as an additional member) was one of four made in the Jubilee Honours List last year.

Sadly, the official photos didn't include one of the insignia.  Let me meet that need...

The Order of New Zealand was established on Waitangi Day 1987 "to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity,” and was based on the Order of Merit. 

The insignia (manufactured by Spink & Son) is the same for all grades of membership: an oval medallion in gold and coloured enamels, bearing in the centre the design of the shield of the New Zealand Coat of Arms within a Kowhaiwhai rafter pattern. It was were designed by Phillip O’Shea, New Zealand Herald of Arms Extraordinary to The Queen, who has done several nice pieces of work for the New Zealand honours system.

A man's badge is worn from a neck ribbon.  A woman's badge is worn on a ribbon bow on her left shoulder.  The ribbon is red ochre (kôkôwai) with a narrow white stripe towards either edge.  Kôkôwai has also been used in the ribbons of  NZ Order of Merit and The Queen’s Service Order and Medal. This colour has a spiritual significance for Maori. The badge must be returned to the Crown on the death of the holder or on the holder ceasing to be a member of the Order; it is then passed to another appointee to the order. 

Ordinary membership of the order is limited to 20 members.  Additional members can be appointed on special occasions (this happened in 1990 for the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi, in 2002 for the Golden Jubilee, in 2007 for the 20th anniversary of the institution of the order and last year for the Diamond Jubilee). Honorary membership includes citizens of nations of which the Queen is not Head of State.

After this investiture and a garden party, the Duke has been admitted to hospital for 'an exploratory operation following abdominal investigations'. He is expected to stay in hospital for up to two weeks.  Naturally, at his age, any admission to hospital (let alone an operation) is a cause for concern.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Books and Stuff

A regular round-up of my book news (a little late this week).

What I've been reading this week...

I finally finished Loot - which was a good read.  A study of what the French call 'elginisme' (after the earl who pinched the marbles), meaning the acquisition of cultural artifacts by an imperial power.  That's a bit of a cheek really because, as Chamberlain shows, it was Napoleon who made it a state enterprise (until his invasion of Egypt the looting had been private enterprise).  Chamberlain gives a good overview, then focuses on the activities of Napoleon, Hitler/Goering and the British in West Africa.  I'd recommend this, but it does show the signs of being written in 1980: although a preface updates the story to 2003 (why a preface and not an epilogue?), there's hardly anything after the 1970s.

I then read Ted Allbeury, The Lantern Network, which is a thriller showing the terrible consequences of betrayal in French Resistance groups during World War II.  Allbeury served with SOE durng the war, and it kind of shows.  He had a fascinating life, and I'll be keeping my eyes open for more of his books

What I've bought this week....

Joe Abercrombie, Red Country - £5.00
Jack Campbell, Lost Fleet: Dauntless - £2.50

Norma Clarke, The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters - £1.00
Kitty Ferguson, Measuring the Universe: The historical quest to quantify space - £1.00
Michael Montgomery, Who Sank the Sydney? - £1.00
Robert Payne, The Crusades: A history - £1.00
David E Yelverton, Quest for a Phantom Strait: The saga of the pioneer Antarctic Peninsula expeditions, 1897-1905 - £1.99

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Renn Dickson Hampden, Bishop of Hereford

Renn Dickson Hampden 
by Henry William Pickersgill

Renn Dickson Hampden was born in Barbados on 29 March 1789.  He was sent to school in England in 1798, entering Oriel College, Oxford in May 1810, where he was a friend of Thomas Arnold and Richard Whately.  He graduated BA in 1814 and MA in 1816.  He was elected a Fellow of Oriel in 1814 - among his colleagues were Keble, Newman and Pusey, later the leaders of the Oxford Movement.

On 24 April 1816 he married Mary Lovell of Bath and, as was required at the time, resigned his fellowship.  He was ordained on 22 December 1816 and became curate of Newton, near Bath.  He was then  successively curate of Blagdon, of Faringdon, of Hungerford, and of Hackney.  He remained a scholar and in 1827 published Essays on the Philosophical Evidence of Christianity.

He was elected Bampton lecturer at Oxford in 1832, and appointed a tutor at Oriel.  In April 1833 he was nominated principal of St Mary Hall, Oxford, by the prime minister and was made Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University in 1834.   In the same year, Hampden's Bampton Lectures were published as The Scholastic Philosophy considered in its relation to Christian Theology.  These proved controversial.

John Henry Newman c.1841
When in 1836 he was offered the Regius Professorship of Theology (which is attached to a canonry of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford), Hampden was attacked by high churchmen on the grounds that the lectures were unorthodox.  In particular they objected to the statement that the authority of the scriptures and of reason was of greater weight than the authority of the church.  John Henry Newman published  Elucidations of Dr Hampden's Theological Statements and the case became the first measure of the Tractarians' influence at Oxford.  The heads of Oxford houses were persuaded to condemn the lectures.   Hampden offered to withdraw from the appointment, but the prime minister Lord Melbourne insisted he take it, and he did so in October 1836. However, in March 1837, a motion was proposed convocation for the exclusion of the regius professor from his place on the board that chose select preachers for the university.  The exclusion was carried, but the proctors exercised their right of veto. The proposal was again brought forward in May, and a change of proctors having in the meantime taken place, it was carried.

Hampden's appointment was subject of bitter controversy, and, in true ecclesiastical and university fashion, many books and pamphlets were issued by the parties to the discussion.
John Merewether, Dean of Hereford

In 1847 Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister, offered Hampden the see of Hereford.  Russell was fanatically opposed to the 'Romanizing tendencies' of the Oxford Movement, and Hampden's best qualification in his eyes was probably that they had opposed him so violently.

Yet it was not only the extreme High Church party which objected to Hampden.  Thirteen diocesan bishops presented an address of remonstrance to Russell and John Merewether, the Dean of Hereford, wrote to him that he would vote against Hampden's election when the Queen's congé d'elire was presented.  Russell famously replied:  'Sir, I have had the honour to receive your letter of the 23rd instant, in which you intimate to me your intention of violating the law.'  Hampden was elected bishop on 28 December, the dean and a canon voting against him; Merewether refused to affix the chapter seal.

The Dictionary of National Biography continues:
At the confirmation in Bow Church on 11 Jan. 1848, when the custom of citing opposers was followed, three persons appeared by their proctors as opposers, but Dr. Lushington [the Dean of Arches - a judge of the Province of Canterbury] gave judgment that the opposers had no right to appear. These persons then made an application to the court of queen's bench for a mandamus to force the Archbishop of Canterbury to listen to them. A rule having been obtained, on 24 Jan. the attorney-general began the argument, and on 1 Feb. judgment was given against the issuing of the mandamus.
This question of the bishopric again gave rise to a paper war, and upwards of thirty works on the matter issued from the press. 

Hampden was finally consecrated as bishop in Lambeth Palace Chapel on 26 March 1848.  After all the fuss, his episcopate was undistinguished.  The Encyclopædia Britannica summed it up as follows:  'As bishop of Hereford Dr Hampden made no change in his long-formed habits of studious seclusion, and though he showed no special ecclesiastical activity or zeal, the diocese certainly prospered in his charge'.

Bishop of Hereford, 1860s
R D Hampden died in office on 23 April 1865 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.
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