Thursday, 25 July 2013

Ur..what's that then?

Or, welcome to my Sumer project.

After a bit of a break here's a wargaming post for a change.

Having pretty much finished this phase of the Chinese project (need to get French & Taiping Rebels) I've taken a break and gone for something a bit different. I've long been a fan of the Hat plastic ancient ranges. I like their 4-sprue set up that guarantees at least 4 figures of each pose the same in each box. I also like their systematic approach to periods, and their totally usable figure poses.

I've long had a hankering for a really early army, and as a present to myself I decided to get stuck into the Hat Sumerians. After all, you get 92 poses in an infantry box. All in, two large-ish armies suitable for AMW come to c£30, as the figures are currently discounted at Hannants. I could probably have got away with £20, but I wanted a decent range of chariots options for my armies so I doubled my original order from 2 to 4 boxes of chariots. Gotta love those donkey carts (even if the donkeys are a bit tall).

I've done a trial paint job on one "battle cart" and one foot unit with large shields.They're done in my normal style with white undercoat this time and Ronseal varnish as per usual.

I may tweak the paint scheme as I go along, but I like the look of them. They're very simple, in a palette of shades of brown with a bit of grey mostly, which offsets the red of the chariot nicely.

I thought this was going to be a straight forward paint-from-the-box project, but I didn't count on the fact that I wargame with an expert in Biblical history and warfare, and also a modelling super detailer.They've both made some helpful comments that may extend the project slightly

Regardless of these concerns I'm pleased with where I've got to so far. They're intended for using with AMW or DBA if needs be (nothing too clever) and I may put my own set of rules together later in the year.

Overall, however, it's been good to lose myself in some painting and get away from R27s, IHT205's and P1612(W)'s for an afternoon.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Thank you

It has been a week or more since my last post. Things have been not so much hectic as emotionally wearing. I normally try to reply to all the comments on the blog but I ran out of steam on the last one. However it is important to me to say thank you to all of you who commented on the piece I wrote about my father. Your words were a comfort to me and my family. I'm pleased I was able to portray to you what a lovely man he was.

As we prepare for the funeral we have things to go through and consider, and lots of pictures to sort out. This first photograph was taken as a gift for my grandparents, probably around the time my dad went to Oxford. I'd guess he is 17 or 18 here, and clearly the model of the 1930's -40's intellectual. All he really needs is his pipe.

The next photograph is from the Blackpool Grammar School sports day in 1942. He is receiving the trophy as the Senior Champion, so he is in the Upper Sixth, although a year younger than most, if not all, of the pupils in his year. I think this must have been a Golden Year for him, - he had just got his scholarship to University and he won the sports day, - apparently by a long way. However, with the Germans pouring into Russia & our retreats & difficulties in North Africa he must have been very aware of what was the right thing to do. He joined the Territorials as soon as he left school.

I have chosen not to include any of his Army snaps here, - I'll perhaps put them in a later blog - so this next picture shows him with my Big Brother, about September 1956. The hair line is starting to go. Alas we cannot blame that on the war, - we seem to be genetically disposed to going bald. He is 31 here, having lost, luckily, only 6 years to the War and his subsequent service in the Middle East.

Although I never showed much athletic prowess it wasn't for want of Dad trying with us from an early age. Here he is teaching me how to play golf. He even has his trade mark pipe in this picture, - although my recollection is that he spent more time trying to light it than actually smoking it.

We fast forward a few years now to this one of him in the back garden of our house in Rugby with Andrew, his first grandchild. He loved all of his grandchildren, and nothing delighted him more than having them round or taking them out.

Although he could be a terrible tease with them all.

Finally here he is with my mother, my brother and me at their Golden Wedding party in 2002. One of the best days we all shared together as pretty much all of our extended family were able to attend.

So although I have lots of reasons to be sad I have a whole array of wonderful memories. Thank you for letting me share them with you.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Time to say goodbye

My father died on Tuesday night.

He was 88.

He was in hospital and had just been treated for an infection. He was very weak and in the end he just died. I last saw him on Monday, and my brother on Tuesday, a few hours before he left us. The consultant told me to prepare for the worst on Monday. We were called just before 11, but by the time we got there he had already died.The nurse who told us was very kind. Then my brother and his wife arrived. We had a little cry then went home.

My father was a Grammar School boy before the war. He went up to senior school a year early, and got a place at Queens College Oxford. He then volunteered and joined the Royal Signals. He never went back to finish his degree. He was a man of conviction. He couldn't stay at university when his contemporaries were fighting Fascism. In the Signals he was a System X installer, amongst other things. He landed shortly after D-Day and ended up in Germany then Egypt where he joined the Archaeological Society. He claimed this was so he could get access to the Officers Mess. Like my Grandfather, who likewise volunteered for the Great War, he never rose above non-commissioned rank. I think neither of them wanted to be a soldier. They just did what was right.

I owe this lesson to him, and I am profoundly grateful.

He was a good athlete and sportsman. When at Blackpool Grammar School in the sixth form he won everything on the track at sportsday, pretty much, plus high jump.He was a good club cricketer as well, being a left handed fast bowler. I only ever saw him play cricket once, when he represented the Parents v the School. He didn't get to bowl much, although he did hit the only boundary in the Parents' innings. Cricket also gave us the Perfect Day together. In 1994 I took a day off work and we went to see the first day of Warwickshire v Northampton. We sat, had a few beers from a cool bag, ate smoked salmon sandwiches, and watched Brian Lara score 197 runs off 193 balls. Lara was caught at full stretch on the boundary for what would have been a 6. When the game started we were two of only a few in the ground. As Lara scored and the sun stayed out the ground filled up until it was standing room only by the end.

So, thanks Dad, for showing me how to enjoy this wonderful game and sharing this time with me.

He came from a generation that had "General Knowledge" lessons at school. Although he had a scientific background (he was an industrial chemist) he was interested in pretty much everything. As he got older he read a lot of history, which we sat and discussed. He would tease nurses and carers with more exotic names about their mythological antecedents, phoning me up to make sure he'd got the story of Dido and Aeneas exactly straight in his head. My last conversation with him included a discussion about the supply of grain from Egypt to Rome. Our house always had books, and he was always reading. He joined our pub quiz team as a sub on a number of occasions. He was the perfect ringer.

Again, thanks Dad for the gift of wanting to learn, and understanding that knowledge, for its own sake, is a valuable prize.

He was always good with people. He could remember names and always had time for pretty much anyone. He was also a fearsome and stylish complainer when the need arose (although sometimes it would make my mother cringe). He was always precise about who should be the object of any complaint, knowing that it usually isn't the fault of the person you have to complain to. When I was young we once had a most awful Sunday Lunch in a restaurant in Dunchurch. The peas were hard, the chicken raw in places. He refused to pay, but obtained the bill anyway. He then tipped the waitress on the way out. After all it wasn't her fault the kitchen couldn't cook.

Thanks Dad, for making me aware that people matter.

There is so much more I could say, but that will do for now.  I was privileged to know you Dad, let alone be your son. I can never say thank you enough.

So thanks, once more, for everything.