Saturday 9 December 2023

COVID ... five days on

This variant of COVID has proven to be the worst I have suffered from. Despite having had all my vaccinations, I have still been laid low by it since last Tuesday, although looking back I now realise that I was in the early stages of it on Monday or possibly even Sunday.

The worst now seems to be over, but I am still suffering from the symptoms of loss of appetite, a bunged up and runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, poor concentration, and a general feeling of debility. I can watch TV ... but I don't always remember what I've watched as I often doze off halfway through a programme and wake up again after the next one has started. Mind you, the latter might be more age-related than down to COVID!

I will be taking another lateral flow test later today to see if there is any sign of the virus's grip diminishing. In the meantime, the things that I wanted to do before Christmas – most especially to finish my model railway and to fight another ShamBattle/Portable Wargame – are on hold until I feel a lot better.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

It wasn’t a cold … it was COVID!

As I mentioned in last Monday’s blog post, I was at The Grove Park Lodge No.2732 on Monday to see a Brother Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason. It was my first Masonic meeting in months, and I was looking forward to going. I felt a bit rough before I went and slept like a log that night.

On Tuesday morning I was feeling worse, assumed that I had a cold, took some paracetamol, and carried on as best I could. However, by the middle of the afternoon. I was sneezing very frequently, had a runny nose, and began to shiver uncontrollably. Sue looked up my symptoms on the NHS website and immediately made me take a COVID test, which was positive. I am fully vaccinated and have had my cold and flu jabs, but I still caught it.

I’ve had COVID before, but this is the worst I’ve felt. I’m now in purdah for at least five days and until I have a negative test result. I seem to be sleeping or dozing almost all the time, so it looks as if all the things I planned to do this week will have to be put on hold. I’ll start blogging again as soon as I begin to feel better.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

I managed it ... but came home rather tired

In yesterday's blog post I wrote about going to a meeting of my Mother Lodge (The Grove Park Lodge No.2732) for the first time since May, and how this was the first Masonic meeting that I had managed to get to since then.

I was a bit worried that it was also the longest time and distance I had driven since August, and I was a bit apprehensive. When I set off from home at just after 3.00pm, it was beginning to get dark, and it was raining quite heavily. My satnav informed me that the route via the Blackwall Tunnel and M11 to the M25 was subject to delays (there was some sort of accident or breakdown near the entrance to the Tunnel) so I went the long way around using the A2 and M25.

The left-hand map shows the route I would normally have taken and the one of the right shows the route I actually took to reach Chesthunt. I returned home using my normal route.

One thing that I had forgotten about was the speed and erratic behaviour I was likely to encounter driving on some of Britain's most crowded roads. Cars changing lanes without indicating, cars and motorcycles undertaking, lorries and trucks getting so close alongside or behind you, and the general lack of space between vehicles ... and everything happening at at least 70mph! I kept calm, tried to keep a safe braking distance between myself and the vehicle in front of me (which some drivers saw as an opportunity to cut in front of me without any notice!) and drove at a speed that I felt was safe considering the road conditions. As a result, my journey, which Google Maps predicted would take me 55 minutes, actually took me closer to 90 minutes ... but I still got there in plenty of time to say hello to everyone, have a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake, and restore my personal comfort before the meeting started.

The meting went very well indeed. The Lodge performed a Third-Degree ceremony (AKA a Raising) on the brother of one of the existing Brethren and we were able to welcome a joining member I have known for nearly 20 years and whose own Lodge had recently closed.

After the meeting we were able to have a quick drink in the bar (I had a very nice glass on non-alcoholic IPA) before going into the after-meeting meal. This was a traditional Christmas turkey dinner with all the usual trimmings, followed by Christmas Pudding and a mince pie. It certainly was a hearty meal, and I was feeling rather full by the time it ended and we all parted company.

My journey back, which started at about 9.45pm, was a lot calmer and quicker than my journey to Cheshunt. However, by the time I got home I was feeling rather tired, thanks to driving fatigue, the large meal, and the fact that I missed my usual afternoon nap! Last night I slept like a log, and it was only the arrival of the cat at 8.00am that woke me up, otherwise I would probably have slept even longer.

So, yesterday was a good day, and although I am still feeling a bit tired, it is that tiredness that comes after you feel like you have achieved something. I now know that I can cope with driving for longish distances on crowded and busy roads, and that is a major milestone for me to have reached.

Monday 4 December 2023

One more step on the road to a full recovery ... I hope!

This afternoon I will be attending my first Masonic meeting since the end of my radiotherapy. It will mean driving from my home to Cheshunt in Hertfordshire and back and will be the longest distance I will have driven in one day since the middle of August. As such, this will be a major test of my confidence that my mind and body can cope with the demands of driving on some of the busiest roads in the UK at peak times. Until now, most of my recent driving has been over short distances with plenty of opportunities to stop and have a break if I need to, but once I'm on the M11 and M25, I'm going to have to keep going, regardless.

The meeting I am attending is one of the regular ones held by my Mother Lodge, The Grove Park Lodge No.2732. On the face of it, it will be a normal business meeting, with a couple of ceremonies (one long and one short) taking place. I will have a minor part to play in the longer of the two, but other than that, I'll be able to sit back and just enjoy being back in the Temple with my Masonic Brethren.

The crest of The Grove Park Lodge No.2732.

What marks this out as an unusual meeting is the fact that our oldest member will be marking his sixtieth year in the Lodge and in The Craft ... and that he has never, ever missed a meeting in all of those sixty years! This is something of a record (I've never heard of another Brother ever managing this feat) and is one reason why I want to be there to offer my personal congratulations.

Sunday 3 December 2023

The MF&FMLR model railway project: The next stage in building the terrain.

The next step in building the terrain was to blend the edges of the cut foamcore using a cheap pot of ready-mixed household filler. It was applied using a small spatula and the tip on my index finger. Before it had dried, a lightly dampened sponge was then wiped over it to smooth the filler.

The area around one of the marshy areas before ...
... and after the the filler had been applied.

Once the filler had dried, I sealed the surface of the baseboard using PVA glue to glue sheets of cheap blue kitchen towel over the top and sides of the baseboard.

(The cheap blue kitchen towel turned out to be a bit too thin and kept tearing as I glued it in place. Once it had dried, I applied second layer of thicker, white kitchen towel. This was then overpainted with a mixture of diluted PVA and filler. The end result was a much better and more substantial finish.)

Once the PVA and kitchen towel had dried, this stage of the terrain construction was complete.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Some possible ShamBattle map/battlefield variants.

One of the topics that has arisen from the feedback I have received with regard to the SHAMBATTLE map/battlefields featured in some recent blog posts was the fact that the bridges were chokepoints that restricted the strategies the players could adopt. In my own play-test, the majority of the fighting took place within a couple of grid areas from one or more of the bridges.

As a result of this feedback, I looked at the original map/battlefield I had drawn to see if I could change it for the better.

My first variant saw the replacement of the river by a range of hills and the swamps by forests. The chokepoints were now passes through the hills, but troops from both sides were no longer restricted to using them to advance into enemy territory.

My second variant retained the river, but saw it narrowed so that troops could ford it at any point.

In the third variant I kept the narrow river, removed the swamps and central road, and added a traversing road in Redina from Red City to Redville.

This third variant seems to open up the centre of the map/battlefield and might make a significant difference to the amount of manoeuvering the armies can undertake. 

Friday 1 December 2023

A Lidl present

Sue paid a visit to the local branch of Lidl yesterday ... and came back with a pre-Christmas present for me!

In truth, it was actually four pre-Christmas present, as Lidl had a special offer on Airfix kits, each of which came with its own glue and paints. Therefore, I am now the proud owner of 1:72nd/1:76th plastic kits of ...

... a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.1A fighter, ...

... a Curtiss Tomahawk IIB fighter, ...

... a Folland Gnat T.1 trainer, ...

... and Pzkpfw VI Tiger I tank.

I'm not sure when I will build these kits, but they will certainly give me something to do if I want a break from my other projects.

Thursday 30 November 2023

Military History Plus bonus podcast

Professor Gary Sheffield recently announced that there was going to be a bonus Military History Plus podcast entitled SPECIAL – WHAT DO HISTORIANS ACTUALLY DO – A REPLY TO RIDLEY SCOTT.

In a recent interview about his latest film – NAPOLEON – the film director Ridley Scott is reported to have said in reply to criticism by some historians as to its accuracy, ‘Excuse me, mate, were you there? No? Well, shut the f*ck up then’. This podcast examines this very dismissive attitude of historians and then moves on to look at what role historians – and particularly military historians – perform.

Although I do not agree with everything Professor Gary Sheffield and Dr Spencer Jones say during the podcast, I fundamentally agree that the argument put forward by Ridley Scott is completely wrong. In the National Archives I have read original first-hand accounts and official reports written by participants in several military actions … and although they may have been there, they did not always agree on even some of the most basic facts. The role of the historian is to read those accounts and arrive in their own mind at some sort of overall view of what appears to have happened and to come to some sort of conclusions … and all this is done in the knowledge that another document or piece of evidence may well surface at some time in the future that proves their conclusions to be in some way erroneous.

In the field of military history, research is not just done in the dusty libraries and archives of academic institutions. It takes place on the actual battlefields, usually with a detailed map in hand ... and in my experience, not always in the best of weather! Often it is only then that one can gain the necessary insight and understanding into what happened and why it did so.

A case in point. Some years ago I had the opportunity to visit Pourville in Normandy. Before going, I read James Leasor’s GREEN BEACH, which described fighting that took part in Pourville during the Dieppe Raid on 19th August 1942. It was only when I actually walked around the village and looked at the terrain that all the events and problems fell into place.

The shingle beach – which is made up of large pebbles – was impossible to run up without risking serious injury (I know, because I tried!) and the River Scie, which divides the village in two, can only be crossed via the bridge. On the map the river looks quite narrow and appears to be relatively easy to cross … but when you see that it has been canalised and has deep vertical sides, you realise why the Canadians didn’t just wade across it. (By mistake they had been landed on the west side of the river and their objectives were on the eastern side.) If I had not visited the site of the fighting, I would not have realised how important these factors were in the failure of the Canadians to reach their objectives.

The latest series of these podcast begins very soon, and I am looking forward to listening to them.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Nugget 358

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET from the printer (Macaulay Scott Printing Company of Welling, Kent) this morning, and I will be posting it out to members as soon as I can.

I have sent the PDF copy to the webmaster, and members should be able to read this issue of THE NUGGET online as soon as he can upload it.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2023-2024 subscription year.

If you have not yet re-subscribed, an email reminder was sent to you some time ago with the relevant information you require to do so. If you have lost this and wish to re-subscribe or you are a new subscriber, please request a PayPal invoice or the bank transfer information from the Treasurer or follow the instructions on the relevant page of the website.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

The MF&FMLR model railway project: Starting the terrain

Once my baseboard was ready, I began the process of adding terrain by covering it with a layer of A4-sized foamcore boards that were trimmed to size. (I used A4-sized boards as I had a stack of them in my wargame/toy room). I did this because I wanted a soft surface for the track pins to go into and I thought that the hardboard would be too hard!

These were glued to the hardboard using a spray adhesive and any excess foamcore was cut away carefully using a sharp craft knife.

I then overlaid this with a second layer of foamcore boards that I temporarily fixed in place using masking tape. I then reassembled my track on top and using a marker pen, I marked on where the track went and the rough locations of the buildings and marshy area. I also numbered each sheet of foamcore from 1 to 9, starting in the top left-hand corner. This was so I knew where each one should go when I had glued them to the bottom layer. (It is worth noting that I laid this second layer of foamcore at right-angles to the first in order to ensure that any gapping was minimised.)

I then disassembled my track and trimmed the nine foamcore boards according to the markings that were drawn onto them. I then glued each of them in place using PVA glue.

To make sure that the foamcore did not move whilst the PVA glue dried, I started with the top row of foamcore boards and used heavy weights to hold them in place until the glue had dried. This took between and hour and two hours. I then repeated this process with the middle row of foamcore boards, and when they had dried, the last row was glued and weighted down.

You will note that I also added a few 'islands' inside the marshy areas as well as a few hummocks to break up the otherwise rather flat terrain. I also changed the edge of the River Thames in 8 to allow for the the Brennan Torpedo launching slipway and in 9 to reinforce the weak bottom right-hand corner of the layout baseboard.

The white foamcore board I used has taken on a yellow-brownish in the photographs due to the artifical light in my toy/wargame room. I did not correct this as I think that it makes it easier to see what I have done.