Sunday, 25 July 2021

I have been to ... the Oriental Club

For the second time in a week, I travelled up to the centre of London for an important meal. This time Sue came with me, and we made the journey by car (to North Greenwich Underground Station) and then the Jubilee Line to Bond Street. The venue for the meal - a birthday lunch for someone Sue and I have known for over ten years - was being held in the Oriental Club in Stamford Place, which is almost opposite Bond Street Underground Station.

We had eaten there before in 2019, and knew that the food and the atmosphere would be excellent ... and we were not disappointed. On this occasion we ate in the Library ...

... where all the guests sat around a long table, with our host sat at in the centre of one side.

The menu for our meal was as follows:

Indian Street Food Selection

Cornish Prime Rib of Beef, Triple Cooked Chips and BBQ Sauce, Mixed Salad

Salted Toffee Chocolate Pot, Assorted Biscuits

Coffee and Handmade Chocolates

All served with:
Picpoul de Pinet, Les Trois Mates, Languedoc, France, 2020
Merlot, Reserve La Vigneau, Vin de Pays, France, 2019

The food was superb, and I am told that the wine (which I did not drink) complemented it extremely well.

All-in-all, we had a wonderful time. Besides the excellent food and drink and the stunning location, the company was as diverse as it was entertaining. We sat in the midst of a group that included the host's son and his wife, a film extra turned entrepreneur and cryptocurrency dealer, a couple of orchestral conductors who also lecture at the Royal Academy of music, and a distant descendant of Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar VC and his lady friend! Conversation covered a wide range of topics, and everyone had something to say that was well worth listening to.

The lunch finished just after 4.30pm and having thanked our host and said goodbye to everyone we had spoken to, Sue and I returned home by Tube. It was somewhat more crowded than it had been earlier in the day, and the only jarring note was the level of non-compliance with the compulsory wearing of facemasks being exhibited by some of our fellow passengers. That said, it was hardly surprising as an anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown demonstration had taken place during the day in Trafalgar Square, which was served by one of the Underground stations we stopped at on our journey home.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I understand that this Latin phrase can be found in Juvenal’s Satires (Satire VI) and is usually translated as ‘Who will guard the guards themselves?’ although it can also be translated as ‘Who watches the watchers?’ or ‘Who will watch the watchers?’.

Taking Sir Charles James Napier's reputed example of using 'Perccavi' (literally translated as 'I have sinned') in his despatch to the British government after forces under his command had seized control of the province of Sindh, I am using 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?' to ask 'Who is watching THE WATCH?'.

I came to the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD stories only recently, but I have enjoyed them, and when I saw that the BBC had made BBC America’s THE WATCH available on iPlayer, I decided to give it a go.

The development of this series began back in 2012, but it was not until late 2018 that a contract for an eight-episode series was signed. It premiered in the United States in January this year, and it was recently made available on iPlayer.

So far, I have watched the first four episodes, and after some initial reluctance, I am gradually beginning to enjoy it. The plot of the series seems to be based on an amalgamation of two of Terry Pratchett’s books, NIGHT WATCH and GUARDS! GUARDS!

Unlike the books, where Ankh-Morpork seems to be depicted as a mixture of medieval, early industrial, steampunk, and magical fantasy, the Ankh-Morpork shown in THE WATCH is much more modern-looking and has a very punk atmosphere. It has been criticised by quite a few people for deviating so far from the original, and I must admit that I would have preferred something more akin to my vision of what the city and the members of the City Watch looked like … but once I had set that aside, I began to enjoy the programme.

Friday, 23 July 2021

My Balkan Wars rules and army lists

When looking through my clipping's library, I discovered that I didn’t seem to have a copy of the rules that I wrote to accompany my Balkan Wars Matrix Game. However, my mother used to buy copies of everything that I wrote, and in the pile of stuff that I inherited after her death was a copy of the issue of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED that contained the rules and army lists … and I have included scans of the relevant pages below.

These scans can be enlarged by clicking on them.

I hope that my regular blog readers will find the above of interest … and it has been suggested that I ought to publish them in book form, possibly with a set of army-level PORTABLE WARGAME rules as an appendix.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Going to a formal dinner: The Thames at night

I had a variety of routes that I could take to reach Waterman's Hall. I could have used my Freedom Pass to make the journey for free or at a discounted fare by

  • Mainline train from Woolwich Arsenal to Cannon Street, and walking from Cannon Street to Waterman's Hall
  • Docklands Light Railway from Woolwich Arsenal to Tower Gateway, and walking from there to Waterman's Hall
  • Underground from North Greenwich to London Bridge, then London Bridge to Monument, and walking from Monument to Waterman's Hall
  • Thames Clipper from North Greenwich to Tower Pier, and then walking from Tower Pier to Waterman's Hall

As it was very hot, I opted for the latter of the options. The discounted fare was just over £5.00 and despite having to wait for ten minutes for the boat to arrive, I was able to sit on North Greenwich Pier in the open and with a mild breeze helping to keep me cool.

A section of the Thames Clipper route. © Uber Boat by Thames Clipper.

The route took me along the River Thames from North Greenwich to Greenwich, and then on to Malthouse Terrace, Greenland (Surrey Quays), Canary Wharf, and then to Tower ... and after I got off I realised that I should have taken photographs of the various places of interest that we passed along the way.

By the time the formal dinner was over, it was nearly 10.00pm, but it still felt as hot as it had done earlier in the evening. I decided to return to North Greenwich by Thames Clipper, and this time I remembered to take some photographs!

Tower Pier gives some wonderful views of the River Thames at night, as I hope that the following photographs show.

Tower Bridge. Like all of London's major bridges, it is illuminated at night.
The south bank of the River Thames as seen from Tower Pier. The Shard (which is situated atop London Bridge Station) dominates the skyline, and London Bridge can be seen on the right of the photograph.
HMS Belfast, which is part of the Imperial War Museum, is permanently moored between Tower and London Bridges.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Going to a formal dinner

This evening I will be journeying up to the City of London to attend a formal dinner at Waterman’s Hall.

The dinner is to celebrate the appointment of several Hertfordshire Freemasons (including me) to what is termed ‘Grand Rank’. I already have an active Provincial Grand Rank (I am the Provincial Grand Orator or ProvGOrat), but Grand Rank is awarded by the United Grand Lodge of England and Wales (UGLE) on the recommendation of the Province. As a result, I am now a Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies (PAGDC) and these letters now appear after my name in Masonic communications.

Interestingly, the closest I have ever been to being a genuine Director of Ceremonies was the year I spent as the Deputy DC in my Mother Lodge … which in reality meant that I was the DC’s ‘gopher’ during Lodge meetings. I wasn’t that good in the role, which is probably why I only lasted a year before being given another office in the Lodge.

My family has a rather distant link with Waterman's Hall. The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames is a City Guild that is without a Grant of Livery, and its original role was to oversee the apprenticeships of all Watermen and Lightermen operating on the River Thames, and to govern the work undertaken by Guild members. A Waterman was a river worker who transferred passengers across and along the river, and a Lighterman was a river worker who transferred goods between ships moored on the river and the quays, wharves, jetties and piers lining it.

Every year six apprentice Watermen compete for the Doggett Coat and Badge Wager. This is a race that has been held since 1715, and the winner is awarded a Watermen's red coat on which is a silver badge. The latter shows the horse of the House of Hanover and the word 'Liberty' in honour of George I's ascension to the throne in 1714. The award was created by Thomas Doggett, an Irish actor and comedian, who is reputed to have inaugurated the race and the prize after he was rescued from drowning by a passing waterman. Surprisingly, the race is overseen by the Fishmonger's Company, which is one of the Liveried Companies.

My family's link is that a very distant relative, one Harry Cordery of Putney, won the Doggett Coat and Badge Wager in 1879. Since then, several of my family have worked on the River Thames as Watermen and Lightermen, as have members of my wife's family.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Too hot to paint

My toy/wargame room is on the top floor of our three-storey house. It was built some years ago when we had the existing loft converted into more accommodation … and when the building regulations insisted that the cavity walls and roof were filled with heavy duty insulation in preparation for the then-much-predicted drop in global temperature. (This was before the concept of global warming had been proposed.) As a result, when the UK experiences one of its rare spells of hot weather, the room quickly becomes too hot to stay in for more than a few minutes.

Even with the windows open and a tower fan going full blast in my toy/wargame room, I cannot reduce the temperature in the room. The situation is not helped by the fact that the room faces south-west, and it is exposed to the sun from the late morning until the sun sets. The room heats up during the day but loses very little of that heat during the night. I have tried using the temperature differential between the back and the front of the house to create a draft, but there is hardly any wind to help reduce the temperature in the room.

I had hoped that by now I would have begun painting the cavalry and mounted officers for my FUNNY LITTLE WAR/PORTABLE WARGAME Army Black, but other than priming/undercoating the figures, I have made no progress … and until the temperature drops again, I am not likely to to.

Monday, 19 July 2021

My Balkan Wars Matrix Game

Back when the world – and I – were a lot younger, I devised a Balkan Wars Matrix game. It was published in MINIATURE WARGAMES (actually, as Phil Dutre has pointed out in his comment, it was WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED!) and in retrospect – and in the light of reading E R Hooton's PRELUDE TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR: THE BALKAN WARS 1912-1913 – I don't think that I did too bad a job.

As the issue of the magazine is long out-of-print, I have included scans of the pages of the article in this blog post so that my regular blog readers can cast their eyes over them. They might also like to remind themselves about Archduke Piccolo's excellent Blacklands War campaign, that used the first of the two maps in the article as the campaign map.

These scans can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Prelude to the First World War: The Balkan Wars 1912-1913

Having read E R Hooton's military history of the Spanish Civil War, it followed that I would also read his history of the Balkan Wars.

PRELUDE TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR: THE BALKAN WARS 1912-1913 gives the right level of information beloved by wargamers, and it is by far and away the best book I have read about these two wars. It begins by giving a political background to the events leading up to the outbreak of the First Balkan War, then a description of the development of military technology during the nineteenth century and its impact of the armies of the combatants. This includes a rundown of each armies organisation and equipment, which is further enhanced by detailed ORBATs in the final chapter.

The book is divided into a Preface and six chapters:

  1. Gathering around the Sick Bed
  2. Bayonets and Battleships
  3. The Eastern Theatre - The Hollow Triumph
  4. The Western Theatre - The Ebb and Flow of Ambition
  5. The Naval and Diplomatic Struggles
  6. The Second Balkan War

There were several aspects of the war that I had certainly never come across before, including the first recorded submarine attack on an opposing warship. This took place on 22nd December 1913, when the Greek submarine Delfin unsuccessfully attempted to torpedo the Turkish cruiser Medjideh.

The Greek submarine Delfin.
The Turkish cruiser Medjideh.

My only criticism of the book is the quality of the maps. The details on some of them is rather sparse, and on one of them the same symbol is used to show trenches is is used on other maps to indicate railway lines. Very confusing!

As I was reading this book, all sorts of wargaming ideas came to mind, including the possibility of designing two Matrix Games that covered the runup to the outbreak of the First Balkan War and the situation that caused the Second Balkan War. I also thought that the battles could easily be re-fought using a slightly developed version of Mark Cordone's rules. After all, I have the example of Archduke Piccolo's excellent Blacklands War to inspire me!

PRELUDE TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR: THE BALKAN WARS 1912-1913 was written by E R Hooton and published in 2014 by Fonthill Media (ISBN 978 1 78155 180 6).

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Some better pictures?

I was not very happy with the quality of the photographs I used in yesterday's blog post ... so I took new ones using a different camera with both the flash on and off. The new photographs looked like this:

They are not my best efforts, but they do show the different end results from the four painting methods I outline in yesterday's blog post and confirm my thinking that methods 2 and 4 produce the best results ... and that of these two, I am going to use method 2 for preference as it requires even less work that method 4!

Friday, 16 July 2021

Experiments in painting horses.

As I stated in my last blog post, I was not very good at painting horse; in fact, I HATED painting horses!

As a result of my outburst, I have received all sorts of advice, and I therefore decided to experiment with several methods so that I see which produced the best results with the least efforts. I used some spare casting that I had to hand, and after priming them with my usual grey primer, I tried painting them. On three of them I used Burnt Umber from the Windsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colour range, and on two I used Nut Brown Windsor & Newton Ink. The results looked like this:

From left to right (1 to 4):

  • This horse (1) was painted using just the Burnt Umber paint.
  • This horse (2) was painted with the Burnt Umber paint, which was then wiped off with a pieces of toilet tissue.
  • This horse (3) was washed with just the Nut Brown ink.
  • This horse (4) was painted with the Burnt Umber paint, and whilst it was still wet, washed with the Nut Brown ink.

These methods were all very quick and easy to use, and of the four, I prefer the results on horses 2 and 4.

Once the paint on the horses was dry, I painted the manes and hooves black, and added white blazes and socks to some of them. The figure and shabraque were painted blue, just to emphasis the results of the horse painting technique.

I am extremely pleased with the results and wish to thank everyone who gave me advice. I intend to use methods 2 or 4 to paint my horses in future ... and I no longer hate the idea of painting horses!