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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Salute 2017 Review

First - my congratulations to South London Warlords for a great show, very well organised, a very nice day out for this Northerner.

A good start to the day - the Grand Central service from York departed on time and arrived in London on time. From there it was London Underground and Docklands Light Railway to ExCel Centre for the show. I arrived at 11:15 so I missed the initial rush - which was good - and the free figure given to the first 5000 entrants.

When I got into the hall, the first thing that struck me was it seemed to be less crowded; in fact throughout the visit I felt there was more room but whether that was fewer punters, fewer traders or fewer games I cannot say; probably a mix of all three. Anyway, being less crowded was a positive for me.

These are my purchases.

Steve Barber Models - Turkish Levy infantry and a Captain

Minifigs sample blister packs

28mm Ottoman flags from The Flag Dude

Artillery sized bases
I was very pleased to find the Steve Barber Models. I had seen the figures in their on line catalogue but I like to see and feel figures before I buy. I bought the two packs, infantry and an officer. I will order more packs of different figures. The new, 28mm Minifigs of Napoleonic Ottomans I will buy as and when I see them. I tried to purchase some figures from Foundry and Perry but both were out of stock. Also I wanted some flags, found The Flag Dude and bought three flags so that was a success.

I have been thinking that as my Ottoman force grows I should get some buildings so I had a good look around for ideas. Adrian's Walls models are one option. These are really nice.When visiting the Warbases stand I saw that they have a range of flat pack Middle Eastern buildings at very competitive prices. I have not bought any of these IKEA style MDF buildings or vehicles. If anyone has I would be very grateful for any feedback on your experiences.

Ideas for buildings - Adrian's Walls look very good
One surprise for me - I resisted the temptation to buy a book or two.

The journey home was the same except in reverse and everything went well. I met B and we went to Pizza Express for dinner. All round, a very good day.

Sizes - l to r - Warlord, Barber, Minifigs  28mm, Barber, Old Glory, Dixon.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Travels in 2017

Almost as soon as I pushed the "PUBLISH" button on yesterday's note, I realised I had forgotten to include another photo. Here it is:

This is the book I am planning to read on the train to and home from London. Well - the one or two chapters that cover events in 1917. I bought it a few years ago. It is a fascinating book for someone (like me) that is interested in the French Army during the Great War, over 500 pages, written by a retired US Army Brigadier General and West Point lecturer. The reason that I am rereading parts of the book is for my next talk. In mid-June I am addressing the York U3A Military History group on the Spring Offensives of 1917, that is the Battle of Arras and the Nivelle Offensive on the Chemin des Dames.

As well as the trip to London I have arranged a few others.

In May, when B is going to the Royal Windsor Horse Show with her family, I am going to Bristol for three nights. This is a city I really like - not yet decided what to do when I am there except maybe a trip to the Tank Museum at Bovington.

June - I have splashed out on a rather expensive trip with The Cultural Experience called "A Near Run Thing", four days tour based in Brussels, with trips to Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo. From Brussels, instead of returning to London I am planning to visit Lille for three nights to see the museums and the fortifications. The Citadel is one of the finest Vauban works in France. It has been maintained to a very high standard, primarily because it is still a working base for the French Army and so access is very restricted.

The Museum of Fine Arts has a number of the relief maps made around 1700 showing France's fortifications.

Relief map of Lille Citadel
Also there is the Lille's Gunners Museum, this sounds rather intriguing.

Late September - the annual holiday with B - this time to Taormina in Sicily, as the summer heat is waning and after the kids have returned to school.

In addition, I am hoping to do a few day trips to various historic sites in North East England and we have tickets for the Saturday of the second test match of England v South Africa series at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in July.

A good spread of trips across the summer. The planning for 2018 has already started - Royal Opera Company has announced their 2018 programme that includes performances of Lohengrin during June. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Salute 2017

Saturday - I shall be travelling down to Excell London for Salute 2017. I am looking forward to it, very much.

The train journey, York to Kings Cross London, is just under two hours each way so I have chosen a good tome to read - Robert Doughty's "Pyrrhic Victory" - as part of my research for my next talk. With luck I should finish the two chapters on 1917.

Last year I went to Salute without a plan or an idea of which traders to see, so this year I have bought the April issue of Miniature Wargames as this is the "Show Special". I have identified several traders, principally for my ongoing Ottoman Army project. I am particularly interested to see Steve Barber Models and Essex Miniatures.

Recently I ordered a couple of siege pieces and a bag of artillerymen from Old Glory UK. I will visit them so they can tell me just what is this gunner supposed to be doing because I am flummoxed.

To me, he reminds me of someone doing that 1990's dance move that I've seen on television, you know, big box little box, but that cannot be right.

Monday, 27 March 2017

"The Lost City of Z"

We had a very good lunch at Carluccio's in York yesterday and then went to Cityscreen to see this, "The Lost City of Z". It is a good story, based on the lives of the two explorers. Their quest was to find the lost city in the jungles of the Amazon on the borders of Brazil and Bolivia.

The film is long and somewhat flat, the tempo is a little too slow. Good acting, terrific locations and camerawork but...I cannot recommend it.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Sledmere House, nr Driffield, Yorkshire

On Sunday, B wanted to see the hunt meet at Sledmere House and I went along for the ride and a walk.

Sledmere is located approximately 20 miles to the South-East of York and on the Yorkshire Wolds. We left home in good weather but as we climbed onto the Wolds we ran into low cloud and rain.

Sledmere House was built and extended in the period 1751 - 90. It is the home of the Sykes family.

Sir Mark Sykes inherited the title and the property in 1912. Two years later he formed the Wagoners, a territorial army unit to provide transport troops in the event of war. They were called up in August 1914. There is a small museum in the grounds.

Just outside the house a monument to the Wagoners was erected to a design by Sir Mark Sykes.

The hunt meet was a drag hunt, that is the riders and hounds chase a human scent, not a fox (which would be illegal). Everything went well despite the rain.

The hunt getting ready

Standing at the front of the house, waiting for the riders and hounds

The hounds are always keen to get going and can be difficult to control during the sending off

Partaking in the stirrup cup, a fortifying drink for the riders

the "blessing" of the hunt by the current Baronet Sykes

It has stopped raining

B is very much part of the horsey world, so she stayed outside to watch. I retreated to shelter from the weather in the Farm Shop. This is where the Estate sells mementos and tourist items and local produce. While looking through the shelves of jams and china cups and the like, I found this book and had a mini-thunderbolt moment "oh... that Sykes".

"At the age of only thirty-six, Sir Mark Sykes was signatory to one of the most reviled and controversial treaties of the twentieth century. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret pact drawn up in May 1916 between the French and the British, to divide the collapsing Ottoman Empire....Agreed without any Arab involvement, it negated an earlier guarantee of independence to the Arabs......Controversy has raged around this shady treaty ever since and, a century later, much of the political instability and viscous ethnic and sectarian violence in the Middle East is attributed to it." Quoted from the flyleaf of the book.

I bought the book, and a pot of jam, I could not resist either.

I don't know whether the hunt caught the human, we left shortly after the hunt set off after him. In the evening B reported they were out for about three hours so it sounds like they had a good run out. For me, the jam is very nice and I am looking forward to reading the book later in the summer.

Friday, 17 March 2017


A short note to recommend this film. It is the story of the assassination of the SS General Rienhard Heydrich on 27th May 1942. Specially trained Czech born SOE agents were parachuted into occupied Czechoslovakia to lead the successful operation.  I watched the film on Wednesday and found it a very gripping and well told story.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Belvoir Castle, Jordan Valley, Israel

On one of my forays around t'interweb I have tripped over this model castle in 28mm scale.

This is Belvoir Castle in Eastern Israel, 500 metres above the River Jordan. It is a crusader castle, begun in 1168 by the Knights Hospitalier.

It is a very early example of a concentric castle. In 1187, after the Battle of Hattin, Saladin's forces besieged the castle. The garrison resisted for 18 months, only surrendering in January 1189. In later times, it ceased to be a military facility and was occupied by local Arab people as a village until the first Arab - Israeli conflict in 1948.

This is how it looks now.

From my reading of various French websites, I believe the modeller was a chap who goes by the name of Captain Yapudo.

Captain - if you looking at this entry, my congratulations to you, I think this is a magnificent model, fantastic, well done sir. I would love to see this.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

"Hidden Figures" and "Hell or High Water"

Its Oscars time again. Last week I saw these two films, both of which are in the Best Film category.

We went to Cityscreen in York yesterday (Sunday) to see "Hidden Figures". It is based on a true story of three African American women who challenged the racial segregation that was rampant in the USA during the fifties and sixties. All three women worked for NASA and participated in the design work for the sixtes' space programme. A good story with great performances.

On Blu-ray I watched "Hell or High Water". I loved this film. I have been a fan of Jeff Bridges since the early seventies; he continues to provide performances that are awesome (in the sense that I am awestruck). A great story, really well directed, such an atmospheric feel with stunning photography and locations. Marvellous.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Vapnartak 2017

No cinema trips this weekend as B was competing (dressage) plus Sunday was Vapnartak  at York Racecourse. Vapnartak is a viking word which, some say, means a gathering of the swords. It is the largest wargaming fair in Northern England.

I spent a very good three hours there, did some buying and some chatting and some checking out of different products.

My purchases. I am continuing with assembling an Ottoman force, a slowly but definitely growing collection.

From Dixon Miniatures.

Some janissaries and some infantry

A few sipahis

From Irregular Miniatures

Last year I bought some Old Glory artillery and crews, these are the limbers for them plus a camel waggon

A unit of Wallachian irregulars, eight figures for twelve pounds.

Also, I thought I should have a commander for my force.

From Warlord, Suleyman the Magnificent, the Lawgiver

During the last eighteen months I have been reducing my metal mountain, so I restrict my spending at shows. This time I took 100 pounds as my budget and I spent 84 pounds. Success, plus the infantry and the limbers will help me to finish some units I have started.

So I had a good day at Vapnartak. I bought some good figures, stayed within budget, had some nice chats and, being over 60, I got free admission. What more could a man want?

The tughra or seal of Suleyman the Maginificent purchased on one of our holidays in Turkey

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

"T2:Trainspotting" and "Denial"

Two trips to Cityscreen in York with B.



The best of British  cinema at the moment. Both really good films, full of excellent acting, good story telling.

The language in T2 was very ripe but I think the film captured the inner-city juxtapositions of decay and hopelessness against development and gentrification. I know it is fiction but it felt very real - where do individuals go when they cannot keep up. Good throwbacks to the original film without being sentimental.

"Denial" - totally different. A courtroom drama, so much of it was claustrophobic and contained but it had a really steady, but quickening dramatic pace that pushed me to the edge of my seat. Brilliant acting, particularly Tim Spall.

Two very different films but I recommend both.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

George III

From BBC Breakfast News this morning. The Royal Archive in Windsor has been working for sometime to place on line thousands of George III's documents. He is Britain's longest reigning king and was acknowledged as being very hard working, earning and liking the nickname Farmer George. He was the last king of North America and the first king of Australia and survived the upheaval of the French Revolution.

The BBC has been filming the work of the Royal Archive staff for a documentary to be broadcast on Monday evening (30th Jan) at 21:00hrs on BBC2.  This includes sight of a draft abdication letter written by George during the American War of Independence, drafted but not used. This should be a fascinating programme.

Remembering John Hurt

Sad news overnight. John Hurt has died. Without a doubt - one of the finest screen actors I have seen.

The first role I remember - Kane in the film "Alien"

Monday, 23 January 2017

"Manchester by the Sea"

The first trip of 2017 to CityScreen in York. This time I was flying solo as this is not to B's taste.

I thought it was a really good film, very well acted, particularly by Casey Affleck as the young man struggling under the burden of grief. Also great location work.  I recommend this film, the subject is not to everyone's taste, it's nothing flash, just a good family drama and great performances.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Boroughbridge's Devil's Arrows.

Here in North Yorkshire there are numerous medieval sights, castles, houses, ruined abbeys. Less obvious is the number of prehistoric sights and sites.

Recently we drove over to Boroughbridge, a small market town about ten miles away. We found the town plan and saw "The Devil's Arrows", a series of three prehistoric megaliths in a field just outside the town.

Looking from the smallest to the largest of the megaliths in the trees (photo from Google Images)

We could not get very close as the farmer has planted a crop in the field and we did not want to walk over it, so this photo below is taken on the I-Phone at a distance of 200 metres.

This megalith is surrounded by trees that have greatly reduced the available light.

The tallest of the blocks is just under seven metres in height, around 21 feet. They are millstone grit and were dragged from a quarry about seven miles away around the year 3000 BC. Why they were put there, for what purpose, is unknown. They are not in a straight line.

We were awed by these and also bewildered. We don't know why they are there but I think we are very lucky to have such monumernts.