Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Cannonade of Sandgate

A Britains 4.7 inch Naval Gun

"The present writer had been lunching with a friend—let me veil his identity under the initials J. K. J.—in a room littered with the irrepressible debris of a small boy's pleasures. On a table near our own stood four or five soldiers and one of these guns. Mr J. K. J., his more urgent needs satisfied and the coffee imminent, drew a chair to this little table, sat down, examined the gun discreetly, loaded it warily, aimed, and hit his man. Thereupon he boasted of the deed, and issued challenges that were accepted with avidity....

He fired that day a shot that still echoes round the world. An affair—let us parallel the Cannonade of Valmy and call it the Cannonade of Sandgate—occurred, a shooting between opposed ranks of soldiers, a shooting not very different in spirit—but how different in results!—from the prehistoric warfare of catapult and garter. "But suppose," said his antagonists; "suppose somehow one could move the men!" and therewith opened a new world of belligerence.

The matter went no further with Mr J. K. J. The seed lay for a time gathering strength, and then began to germinate with another friend, Mr W. To Mr W. was broached the idea: "I believe that if one set up a few obstacles on the floor, volumes of the British Encyclopedia and so forth, to make a Country, and moved these soldiers and guns about, one could have rather a good game, a kind of kriegspiel."..."

From Little Wars by HG Wells.

There was work to be done today when I returned home - but I threw my hands up and had a nap instead. I'm not sure I'll ever really become accustomed to four hours of sleep between shifts, but I manage pretty well most days. This was not one of them and I took to my bed when I came home. I chatted to Mrs. Kinch, who is a little better, about a wedding that she had attended the day before and we discussed the oddities of civil ceremonies over dinner.

She then settled down to watch the final evening of Gay Christmas and fulminate at the perfidy of the voting. As a competition whose main purpose is to my mind to fortify drag acts with new material so that they may pass through the hard winter months, the winning entry seemed a little odd.

While she did that, I tried to set down my thoughts on "Little Wars" - my first non-work writing in a while. It was not something that came easily, my prose is never fluid after a long hiatus, but it is nice to not be writing a report for a change.

Which begs the question; how many of the blog folk have played Little Wars? And of those who have not, do they have any desire to do so?

Friday, May 28, 2010

A touch of India before bed.

Skinners Horse at exercise.
Joshua Reynolds Gwatkin. c1840

Sadly, I have not had much time to devote to my Indian project in the last few weeks. I've assembled three boxes of Zvesda's beautiful Turkish cavalry, that will with a little paint conversion make excellent Indian cavalry. Once I have them based and undercoated, I shall send them off to Mark to work his magic.

That should give me 54 Indian heavy cavalry, which should be plenty for starters.

I have a compoo of European trained infantry with European officers to dolly up with turbans made of greenstuff. Hopefully this should make my Sudanese riflemen take on a more Rajput appearance.

While casting about for suitable pictures to illustrate this blog post, I realised something, there is a great deal of Orientalist art and a great deal of it is very good. However, the vast majority depicts African or Middle Eastern scenes, India is rarely portrayed. I can only suppose this is because the best of the Orientalists were French.

I also managed to cast my eye over the latest issue of Battlegames over a coffee at work today. I haven't yet read the Tabletop Teaser (usually the highlight of any issue for me), but thus far it's looking pretty good - a nice article on complexity in rules design and Siggins gives his own deeply personal take on the popular Black Powder ruleset. Mr Siggins is not won over, but I think gives the rules a very fair hearing without the frothing buffoonery that usually passes for criticism in the hobby.

In other news, to Mrs. Kinch's great joy Ireland have qualified for Gay Christmas. Thank the Lord I do not have an early start on Sunday.

Also, I received two Perry's Dismounted French Dragoons with my copy of Battlegames. They are free to the first chap who posts a quote from my favourite Kipling work in the comments section.

Anyway, to bed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In repose.

The finding of the house was not without its challenges, but we've accomplished that and found one that while it has obvious faults is everything we could want in a home. It's in the right place, it's an old house and it has plenty of space.

But more significantly, Mrs. Kinch and I can see ourselves living in this house for the rest of our lives.

All that remains is the getting of it; that is quite the three pipe problem.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Kinch and her friends are celebrating the beginning of Gay Christmas.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Orientalist Leanings

Captain Colin MacKenzie
by James Sant 1820-1916

There has been previous little time in the last week, though the concept of the week is becoming a strange one for me as I adapt myself to the shift system, so I shall be brief.

- Mrs. Kinch has been seen by a specialist and will be undergoing surgery in late June. The procedure is not a particularly complex one, but serious nonetheless. Fingers crossed.

As it happens Mrs. Kinch is alternating between periods of crankiness when her pain relief wears off and a distinct floppiness that occurs about twenty minutes after she has taken her pill.

- I managed to get the first leg of a Memoir '44 campaign played with a friend of mine. I took the part of the British in Normandy, while he took the German side. Honours were relatively even though I pipped him at the post the last few days of the Caen flank attack to seize a marginal victory. This was the first four games of a sixteen scenario campaign and I was rather pleased with how it turned out. The campaign structure is very light, but still manages to provide continuity and nuance.


- Work continues hectic, tomorrow is day seven of a seven day week. Phew!

- Good news from Mark Bevis, I have two battalions of French infantry on their way; the 22nd Ligne, chaps that lost their eagle at Salamanca, and the 3ieme Etranger, red coated cuckoo clock wallahs to a man. I think I may need to organise a new British regiment...

...but who?

- Speaking of which, I've prepped my first few units of Indians for my mythical Indian state. A friend will be doing a job on them for me. I still have no idea how I'm going to organise these chaps, but at present it looks like units of 24 men with some Havildars and Rissaldars and other such generally harmless persons.

Thus far I should be looking at...

2 unit sword wielding wallahs
2 unit musket toting wallahs
1 tiny unit of Sredni Vashtar cultists
3 units pindarees

This should be plenty if not for a full blown battle, at least for a game of Bob Cordery's "The Natives are Restless".

- Lastly and rather dramatically, Mrs. Kinch and I are looking at a house, nothing firm yet, but it's all rather exciting...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Vatican Situation Room

The Island of Corsica from the Gallery of the Maps
painted by Friar Ignazio Danti
(Savage included, not to scale)

One of the many wonders of the Vatican Museums and there are many of those, is the gallery of maps. A hundred and thirty yards long and the gallery features forty frescoes depicting the regions of the Italian peninsula. The frescoes were painted in 1580 by Friar Ignazio Danti over a period of eighteen months, based on preliminary sketches made on the ground. The good friar would climb the highest point near to the largest city or town in the area and draw what he saw. He would then travel to the next highest spot and repeat the process until he felt he had enough material to go on.

The result is a strange admixture of map and painting that is beautiful to behold and surprisingly accurate.

Large towns and fortresses (particularly fortresses) are depicted in inset panels, reminding the viewer that these were tools of state as well as works of art. I also came across additions along the edges of the frescoes, the battle of Lake Trasimere (I think, I forgot to take a picture), depicted as a late renaissance battle, with pike blocks and reiters on the flanks.

Points that struck me about the maps were...

- how accurate they were, one of the curators told me that there had been a project to compare the frescoes with Google maps and thus far the frescoes have been found to be 85% accurate.

- while the relief and the major towns and cities, lakes, etc are present, there is almost no indication of the extent of agriculture, forestry and something I would have thought very important, roads.

While it is very hard to picture the gallery as it would have been, a place of quiet reflection on matters of state while it is thronged with tourists, there is a sense of being very close to the past there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Scout Car

An Autoblinda Armoured Car.

This was photographed at an Italian army show and tell in Rome last week. An Autoblinda 41 armoured car, it was used mainly in the North African campaign and mounted a 2omm cannon and a pair of 8mm machine guns. It also had the unusual feature of having two steering wheels, allowing it to be driven out of trouble as quickly as it was driven in to it. I think the Hun Puma Armoured Car had the same facility.

Enough of this undignified Second World War nonsense, I shall return to the more civilized Horse & Musket presently.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Savage sketching in the Profane Museum in the Vatican City

Savage, a very good friend of mine, is getting married shortly. He's an artist and a graphic designer, so I thought a trip to Rome might be a fitting wedding present as there is no city on Earth that offers more extraordinary art for a trifling expenditure of shoe leather.

We were in Rome for three very busy days, though most of our time was spent in the Vatican City. We stayed at the very pleasant and centrally located Walk in Centre Rome, a bed & breakfast situated some three hundred yards from the Vatican City. Bread & Breakfast is probably something of a misnomer, as the breakfast of the Continental variety and therefore not worthy of the name.

Our first day was spent tramping around the Colosseum and the Forum and eating a distinctly lacklustre and rather expensive meal.

Our second day was spent in the Vatican. We took a guided tour with Angel Tours. I had had good experiences with Angel Tours before, though sadly this was not repeated. The tour guide, who seemed to have been given the job at rather short notice made a poor showing. That said the majesty of the place overcame any shortcomings on her part and Savage was bowled over by the astonishing bredth and quality of the art collections.

We returned to the Vatican for our last day as Savage was very keen to do some sketching in the Octagonal Courtyard and I was determined that he should see The School of Athens, which had been bypassed by our tour of the previous day. We concluded by climbing the dome of St. Peters Basilica and topped all of that with a magnificent five course meal in D'Onoro on the Via Germanica.

We managed to return home between clouds of volcanic ash, sated and uplifted. Definately a successful trip.

Lessons learned.

- Buy a guidebook and trust to it. Our Rough Guide did not steer us wrong once and was absolutely spot on when it came to places to eat.

- Purchase Reserved Tickets in advance for the Vatican Art Museums. Many of the sights worth seeing become very crowded later in the day and it is worth the few extra shillings to get in early. Booking a guided tour will enable to skip the queues, but so will buying a reserved ticket.

- Bring a rain coat and some light clothing, the weather at least while we were there was very changeable.

- Do not go to an Italian restaurant in a hurry; savour the experience, you won't really be given a choice in the matter.

- Most Romans appear to have a smattering of English and are very polite, however there do appear to be pockets of rudeness remaining. Speaking English, ideally loudly and slowly, interspersed with phrases as "Johnny chop chop, saavy?" and "Whatta mistake-a to make-a", will probably not earn you any friends, but will certainly ensure rapid and efficient service as soon as you establish that this is the only way that they will get rid of you.

Doing so is actually in many ways more effective if the party does have English - you can simply pretend not to understand him. This is not to suggest that you should spend your holiday baiting the natives, but merely that fire be met with fire.