Wednesday 31 January 2024

The story of my washing machine: A Kafkaesque tale resolved ... sort of

Yesterday I received the following email from Currys:

Thank you for your email dated 29th January 2024.
Following your appeal, further investigation was carried out, and our delivery centre has today confirmed that your washing machine was indeed delivered to the incorrect address as you have stated.
I have therefore authorised a full refund of your order as you have requested, which you should see returned to your original payment method within 3 to 5 working days.&
Regarding the individual at the address where your order was incorrectly delivered to, and the removal of the existing unit from that property, I regret we are unable to enter into any correspondence with yourself on their behalf as they would be considered a third party. Nor would the Goods Not Received Team discuss the issue with a third party directly, and we would urge them to contact our Customer Service Team on 0344 561 1234 to discuss any claim they may have in relation to this.
I trust this resolution meets your own requirements and please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused.

So, I should be getting a refund in the very near future ... but no offer of compensation for the upset they have caused, the time I have wasted writing countless emails and tweets, the cost of posting a 'Signed For' letter of appeal, and the overall bad service I have received. All I get is a rather grudging apology of the sort that sounds good but actually means very little.

I now intend to take a breather before asking for some compensation ... but ask, I surely will be!

Once the money has actually been returned to me, I fully intend to buy a new washing machine, but you can rest assured that it won't be from Currys!

Monday 29 January 2024

The MF&FMLR model railway project: Making the halt platforms and loading docks

Once I’d fixed the track to the layout baseboard, the next thing I needed to build was the halt platforms and loading docks.

The basis of each of these were two pre-cut pieces of basswood that were leftover from a previous model shipbuilding project.

I glued two of these pieces of basswood together using PVA glue …

… and once the glue had dried I planked each of the platforms/loading docks with matchsticks and PVA glue.

(As will be obvious, I did not worry too much about the matchsticks all being exactly in line with each other as I wanted to give the impression that these platforms/loading docks had been built on the cheap and as quickly as possible.)

Once the glue had dried, I trimmed the matchsticks and sanded the ends …

… and then gave the platforms/loading docks with a wash made from 50% PVA and 50% water, with a couple of drops of Humbrol matt acrylic paint No.39 Earth brown. This both sealed and stained the wood in one go.

I then glued the platforms/loading docks in place on the layout, trimming them to fit where necessary.

Saturday 27 January 2024

French Warships in the Age of Steam 1859-1914

I have wanted to own a copy of FRENCH WARSHIPS IN THE AGE OF STEAM 1859-1914: DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, CAREERS AND FATES for some time, and after some prevarication on my part, I recently took the plunge and bought a copy … and I’m very pleased that I did!

The book 's contents is split up as follows:

  • Preface.
  • Acknowledgements.
  • Structure and Organisation of the Book.
  • Definitions and Terminology.
    • Technical Characteristics.
    • Ships' Histories.
    • Deck Levels in a Warship.
  • Political, Diplomatic, and Naval Chronology.
  • Preamble. The Triumph of Steam, 1818-1959.
    • The French Navy as at 1 January 1859.
  • Part 1: The Traditional Fleet Updated, 1859-1882.
  • Chapter 1. SQUADRON IRONCLADS, 1859-1882.
  • Chapter 3. CRUISERS, 1859-1882.
  • Chapter 4. AVISOS, SPECIAL SHIPS, AND GUNBOATS, 1859-1882.
  • Chapter 5. TORPEDO BOATS, 1859-1882.
  • Chapter 6. TRANSPORTS, 1859-1882.
  • Part 2. The Fleets of the Jeune Ecole, 1882-1897.
  • Chapter 9. CRUISERS, 1882-1897.
  • Chapter 10. AVISOS AND GUNBOATS, 1882-1897.
  • Chapter 11. TORPEDO BOATS AND SUBMARINES, 1882-1897.
  • Chapter 12. TRANSPORTS AND SAILING VESSELS, 1882-1897.
  • Part 3. Towards a Modern Battle Fleet, 1897-1914.
  • Chapter 13. BATTLESHIPS, 1897-1914.
  • Chapter 14. CRUISERS, 1897-1914.
  • Chapter 15. TORPEDO BOAT DESTROYERS, 1897-1914.
  • Chapter 16. TORPEDO BOATS, 1897-1914.
  • Chapter 17. SUBMARINES, 1897-1914.
  • Chapter 18. MINOR COMBATANTS AND AUXILIARIES, 1897-1914.
  • Appendices.
    • Appendix A. French Naval Artillery, 1786-1914.
    • Appendix B. French Torpedoes, 1880-1912.
    • Appendix C. French Ministers of Marine, 1885-1914.
    • Appendix D. Naval Shipbuilding Directorates and Councils, 1859-1914.
    • Appendix E. Selected French naval Constructors, 1859-1914.
    • Appendix F. French Naval Programmes, 1857-1914.
    • Appendix G. French Naval Budgets, 1872-1914.
    • Appendix H. French Naval Expenditures, 1858-1914.
    • Appendix I. Budget and Programme Symbols.
    • Appendix J. French Naval Squadrons.(Escadres) and Division, 1874-1914.
  • Sources and Bibliography.
  • Index to Named vessels.

This is a truly comprehensive study of the ships of the French Navy during the period from 1859 to 1914, and as such it will no doubt prove to be the 'go to' book for anyone seeking information about that navy for many years to come. It is preceded by FRENCH WARSHIPS IN THE AGE OF SAIL 1662-1786 and FRENCH WARSHIPS IN THE AGE OF SAIL 1786-1861, and if the author plans to research and write a book covering the period from 1914 onwards, I will certainly be buying it!

FRENCH WARSHIPS IN THE AGE OF STEAM 1859-1914: DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, CAREERS AND FATES was written by Stephen S Roberts and published in 2021 by Seaforth Publishing (ISBN 978 1 5267 4533 0).

Thursday 25 January 2024

The story of my washing machine: An ongoing Kafkaesque tale

For those of my regular blog readers who do not follow me on Facebook or X (formerly Twitter), Sue and I have recently been living a somewhat Kafkaesque life.

(Kafkaesque is defined as having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings.)

It all started when our existing washing machine began to leak. Despite my best endeavours to find the cause, I could not, and rather than have it repaired, we decided to buy a new one. We went online, and after looking at various options we decided to buy a replacement from Currys, one of the UK’s biggest retailers of white goods. Not only did we pay for a new washing machine, but we also paid for the old one to be removed and taken away and the new one installed.

We ordered our new washing machine on Thursday 4th January and booked a delivery slot of 11.00am to 3.00pm on Saturday 6th January. At the time we were informed that the delivery team would telephone us about thirty minutes before they would arrive, and at 1.14pm on 6th January I received a somewhat garbled and almost indistinct call to that effect.

It was at this point that we entered the parallel universes occupied by Currys and ourselves.

By 2.30pm the was no sign of the delivery van and team, so we visited Currys’ ‘Track It’ website … and discovered that it recorded the delivery as complete! We tried contacting the telephone that had called us at 1.14pm, but all it did was divert us to voicemail. Just before 3.00pm we telephoned Currys’ Helpline, who asked us to be patient and to wait until the end of the working day before we reported the missing washing machine to them.

Next morning - Sunday 7th January - we telephoned the Helpline again, and after trying to check with the (closed) depot, the missing washing machine was noted as being missing. We wrote about what had happened on X and were almost immediately asked to direct message Currys about the problem. We did this … and carried on messaging them day after day, again and again!

We suggested that there were four possible reasons why our washing machine had not been delivered to us.

  1. It had never been loaded onto the delivery van.
  2. It had been delivered to the wrong address.
  3. It had been stolen from the van.
  4. It had never been taken off the van and had been returned to the depot.
Currys did not respond to any of these suggestions other than to repeatedly tell us to remain patient whilst their investigation team would take between 7 to 14 days (!) to look into the matter. In the meantime, Currys had taken payment for the missing washing machine even though this seems to contravene the Consumer Right Act (2015) as they took payment after the washing machine had been reported as not having been delivered.

By Saturday 20th January the investigation was complete … and we were told that our washing machine had been delivered and fitted and the matter was closed. However, in the interim we had done some investigations of our own, and in our universe, we had managed to find it … but not where Currys insisted it was!

Back in the nineteenth century, the road that we live on went downhill from the summit of Shooters Hill and after crossing Herbert Road, turned left and ran parallel with Woolwich Common. As the area was developed, the two halves of the road were split in two. The upper half - where we live - became Eglinton HILL and the lower half became Eglinton ROAD. Subsequently, when the Post Office allocated postcodes to every location in the UK, by sheer coincidence our section of Eglinton Hill was allocated a postcode that was one letter different from a section of Eglinton Road, those letters being D and S … which are next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard.

On Friday we visited the house with the same number and almost identical postcode to ours … and discovered that on 6th January Currys had delivered and installed a washing machine! This had been done whilst most of the family had been out and the only person present was the 14-year-old son of the homeowner.

We returned on Saturday 20th January and spoke to the homeowner. He had been trying to contact Currys to ask for his washing machine back, but with little success. Furthermore, he was very upset that a perfectly good washing machine had been taken from his house and replaced by the one we had ordered … and that was not as good as the one that had been taken away.

Currys have been informed of these facts and given the contact details of the aggrieved householder, but to date they are still refusing to acknowledge that they delivered our washing machine to the wrong address and took away somebody else’s washing machine instead of our old one. In their universe, a washing machine has been delivered and an old one taken away … and that’s all that their investigation team seems to be concerned about. The fact that their delivery team did not realise that the name on the delivery note was different from that of the household they had delivered to nor that they had left any paperwork pertaining to the delivery seems to have been completely ignored. Likewise, it would appear that the investigation team had not checked the relevant delivery vehicle tracking log to see the locations it had stopped at between 1.00pm and 2.00pm on Saturday 6th January. Their ‘Track It’ system says that the washing machine has been delivered to the address on the delivery note… so case closed!

We have asked for our money back, the aggrieved householder in Eglinton Road wants his washing machine back, and Curry’s maintains that everything is hunky-dory and there is nothing to investigate. We have now appealed against the investigation team's decision that the matter was closed, citing the results of our investigations in support of our appeal.

As the Chinese proverb states, ‘May you live in interesting times’.

Since I drafted this blog post, Currys' investigation team have passed the matter on to the delivery centre for further investigation.

One wonders why they didn't do this in the first place!

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Nugget 360

I have collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET from the printer (Macaulay Scott Printing Company of Welling, Kent) 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 by the time that this blog post is uploaded.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth 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 23 January 2024

The MF&FMLR model railway project: The Mucking Battery or Fort Bean (Part 5)

After I had finished my model battery/fort, I realised that I had no way to secure it to my railway layout so that when I wasn’t using my layout, I could store it.

After giving it so thought, I remembered that Arthur Harman (also known as Arthur1815) has asked if my battery/fort was going to have an earthen glacis. I gave it some thought … and came up with the following solution.

As the basis of my glacis, I decided to use a section of cork pot stand that l bought some time ago from IKEA. I used the bottom part of the wooden box that I had used as the basis of my battery/port as a template to draw the inner edge of my glacis ...

....and then used the line I had drawn around the box to trim the cork to the rough shape that I wanted.

Using the line as my guide, I carefully cut out the shape of the battery/fort ...

... and when I had done that I checked that the model that I had made fitted inside the glacis.

Because cork is quite fragile and subject to break easily, I stuck my glacis onto a sheet of very thin plywood using PVA glue.

Once the PVA glue had dried, I then gave the inside edge of the glacis two coats of PVA to help stabilise the otherwise crumbly cork.

Using a sharp knife and sandpaper, I then shaped the front and sides of the glacis into a slope ...

... and then gave the front and sides of the glacis two coats of PVA to seal the surface.

I followed this with two coats of the same paint that I had used to paint the layout baseboard (Johnstone's Toasted Beige matt emulsion paint).

Once the paint was dry, I used PVA glue to flock the glacis with Noch Spring Meadow (50210) static grass.

I then trimmed off the excess thin plywood and tested to see if my battery/fort fitted ...

... and then glued the glacis into place on my layout.

In the near future I will apply flock to the places where the plywood is still visible in order to blend the glacis in with the surrounding terrain on the layout.

Monday 22 January 2024

Nugget 360

The editor of THE NUGGET sent me the latest issue on Saturday, and I sent it to the printer this morning. As a result, I hope that it will be ready to be collected and posted out to members by the end of the week.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the sixth 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.

Sunday 21 January 2024

Peter Perla, the doyen of professional wargame designers, is dead

I have just heard the sad news that Peter Perla – who was the doyen of professional wargamers – has died.

He was a member of Wargame Developments, and I had the great honour to meet and talk to him on several occasions during his rare visits to London. I always enjoyed talking wargames and wargame design with him, and he always made time to talk to me at wargame conferences if he could. We shared a belief that wargame design is an art rather than a science, although it might be true to say that in some ways it is a dark art.

During one of our meetings, he showed me the copy of THE PORTABLE WARGAME that he had stored on his iPad and was very complimentary about its simplify and subtlety.

He was also a great supporter of the ‘History of Wargaming’ Project, and contributed to it in many ways, including writing forewords and helping John Curry – the originator of the project – to get access to all sorts of sources of obscure wargames etc.

He will be greatly missed by his family, his friends, and the wargaming community. I wish to record my deepest condolences to his family.

Peter Cushing: Actor, railway modeller, and wargamer

I’ve known for quite some time that the famous actor Peter Cushing used to wargame with 54mm figures but until recently I had no idea that he had left behind an archive that contained information about his games.

In an auction of Peter’s effects, Alan Perry managed to purchase a file box of full of stuff and Alan and his brother have been refighting some of the battles Peter fought with his main opponent, Don Houghton, and writing about them on their Facebook page.

In the January 2024 issue of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED (No.433) ...

... there is a heavily illustrated question and answer article about the wargaming ephemera that was in the file box.

As my regular blog readers will know, I don’t often buy any of the hobby glossy magazines, but as I have an abiding interest in what I term ‘wargaming archaeology’, this was a must buy for me.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Military History Plus podcasts: The latest series

Whilst I have been building my model of the Mucking Battery/Fort Bean, I have been listening to the latest series of Military History Plus podcasts.

The series comprised the following podcasts:


This excellent series of podcasts from Professor Gary Sheffield and Dr Spencer Jones are well worth listening to ... and not just because a question from me was one of those answered in episode 3!

Friday 19 January 2024

The MF&FMLR model railway project: The Mucking Battery or Fort Bean (Part 4)

Once this stage was completed, the wooden parts of the battery/fort were given two coats of PVA to seal the surface before the whole thing was painted in the same paint scheme as the Brennan Torpedo Launching Station.

The floor of the fort/battery was then flocked with fine granules of natural cork.

The Mucking Battery (which was also known as Fort Bean in honour of its builder) was complete and able to take its place on my layout.

The figures are somewhat underscale Essex Miniatures 15mm ones, but they give some idea what the battler/fort would look like when in operation.

Thursday 18 January 2024

The inspiration for the design of the Mucking Battery or Fort Bean

The design of the model coastal defence battery/fort I have built is imaginary, but it takes its inspiration from several similar installations I have visited or seen photographs of. These include the following:

Napier of Magdala Battery, Gibraltar

Oscarsborg Fortress, Oslofjord, Norway

New Tavern Fort, Gravesend

Wednesday 17 January 2024

The MF&FMLR model railway project: The Mucking Battery or Fort Bean (Part 3)

It was at this point that I realised that the ends of the gun barrels were rather too low and close to the wall of the fort/battery, and I corrected this by adding two further small circles of plywood to the pivots ...

... and to the gun mountings.

As a result of these small changes, the gun barrels now cleared the wall of the fort.battery.

The next stage was to cut an entrance to the fort/battery in its rear wall ...

... and to add some ready-use ammunition lockers made from small blocks of basswood.

I then cut about a quarter of an inch from the end of each of the nails in the gun mountings and checked that the guns fitted.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

The MF&FMLR model railway project: The Mucking Battery or Fort Bean (Part 2)

Whilst the PVA glue used to construct the pivots was drying, I began work on the guns and mountings. Luckily, I had two old resin kits of Italian Cannone da 149/35 A that I was able to use as a basis for my guns.

The real gun was slightly less than six-inches in calibre but was close enough for my needs. I cut the existing trail down to length and cleaned up the resin castings. To these I added two small 1-inch nails and two small circles of plywood and drilled small holes through the centre of the latter.

I then drilled a small hole at the breech end of the gun trails ...

... and using Araldite epoxy resin glue, I glue the nails through the trails.

(These nails were intended to act as pins around which the guns would be able to pivot once they were in position in the completed battery/fort.)

Once the epoxy resin glue had cured, I reinforced the join with small pieces of basswood that were glued in place with Superglue.

I then glued the barrels of the guns in place using Superglue.

I then used Superglue to glue a circle of plywood under each gun's trail, with the nail going through the centre of the circle of plywood.

Once I was sure that the Superglue was dry, I offered up the completed guns and mountings to the pivot points.