Friday, 13 November 2009

Magic Land of Counterpane: More wargaming poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanks to arthur1815 and Ross Mac, I have now 'discovered' Robert Louis Stevenson's poem about a young child playing in bed whilst ill.
When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
It reminded me of a time back in the late 1950s when I was recovering from having my appendix removed. I was confined to bed after coming out of hospital, and spent most of my time reading my collection of EAGLE comics and various historical novels by G A Henty.

On one day, however, I was allowed to play with my collection of toy soldiers. These were a rather eclectic mix of old (mostly broken) lead Britain's, some more modern plastic figures from the Britain's range (mainly British Infantry armed with EM-2 rifles I seem to remember), some Herald Miniatures Swoppet Cowboys, and plastic toy soldiers that were sold in Woolworths (including some British Guardsmen that were moulded in red plastic). My Britain's 25-Pounder Field Guns served as artillery for both 'sides', firing lengths of matchstick at my figures (until my mother stopped me!). There were no rules, but I suspect that my modern British Infantry probably won the battles I fought because they were my favourites figures.

The battles on my counterpane did a lot to take my mind off the real pain that I was in from my operation.


  1. Marvelous story! CTA has released the 20mm version of those old Britain's modern British infantry and its is on my 'list' to add some to my collection.

    I hope you noticed that the quilted counterpane in the line drawing provides a gridded playing surface?

  2. Ross Mac,

    I did not know about the 20mm version of these figures being re-released; thanks for letting me know.

    The quilted counterpane features in quite a few of the illustrations that were published alongside this poem in a number of books, and I had not missed that fact. It set me thinking about whether or not I could find suitably 'gridded' material today. The Continental Wars Society did for their game at SALUTE'09, but the grid is a bit too big for what I need.

    All the best,


  3. Whatever happened to being ill in bed?

    Modern thinking insists that the moment the crisis is past we must leap to our feet. Preferably back to work where we cannot be spared for another second from whatever pointless task we are employed in.

    Have you thought about the quilted materials that are used for covering headboards etc.?

  4. Johnpreece,

    In answer to the first part of your question ... daytime TV! Why be ill in bed when you can be ill downstairs in front of the TV?

    As for going to work when you are not well ... where I work if you are away for more than three days you have to have an interview to discuss how best to manage your 'health problems'. Forget the fact that:

    a) Your are probably still spreading the virus that has made you ill to everyone else

    b) You will be under performing because your concentration is shot and your brain is functioning as if it is made of cotton wool

    c) Your colleagues, who are having to do your work as well as their own, will make comments if you don't go back

    d) It makes you feel indispensable

    I was once guilty of doing all the above ... and managed to contract a secondary infection that caused me to be off work for nearly six months.

    Now when I am ill I stay in bed until I am well, and bu**er the consequences!

    All the best,


    PS. The material used for covering quilted headboards is worth investigating as soon as I get my car back from the repair garage.

  5. Very true comments re illness,lovely nostalgia re youth,fab poem (my wife was going to start a business once and call it the land of counterpane) and interesting chat.

  6. Tradgardmastare,

    Many thanks for your kind comments.

    It would have been an interesting choice for a company name; what products or services would the company have provided?

    All the best,



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