Thursday 29 February 2024

29th February: A bunce day … and my days as a shop worker

I had hoped to have finished decluttering my toy/wargame room by the end of February, but it looks as if I’m going to miss my self-imposed deadline … but not by much because 2024 is a Leap Year and February has an extra day … a bunce day!

I hadn’t heard of the term ‘bunce’ until I started work as a callow (I was a pupil at a single-sex grammar school) and very young (I was fifteen years-old) shop worker at the local branch of J Sainsbury, but soon learned that its slang meant an unexpected bonus. It was the first of many slang words that I learned whilst working in retailing, the others mostly being shop or back slang.

Shop or back slang was developed so that shop workers could converse with one-another in front of customers without the customers knowing or understanding what was being said. For example, feeb meant beef, bemal meant lamb, and rettub meant butter. It was, however, mostly used to talk in insulting terms about the customers. Hence, a troublesome female customer might be referred to as a delow woc … or old cow!

I got the job at Sainsburys by going along every week and asking the manager for a part-time job. Eventually he gave in, and after a period of training at the company’s training school at Stamford Street in central London, I began work handing out baskets to customers as they entered the supermarket.

This was somewhat ironic as the training school was set up to train staff to work in a traditional-style grocers. I learned how to slice cold meat, pat butter into shape, cut cheese with a cheese wire, and make sugar bags from sugar paper … and my local branch was one of their first supermarkets where none of these skills were used!

I soon progressed to become a bag packer (i.e. I packed customer’s bags for them) and then to work in the buffer store. This was where tinned goods and pre-packed goods (e.g. packets of biscuits) were price-stamped before being put out on the shelves and where any surplus was stored. If you worked in the buffer store you spent your time bringing stuff down from the warehouse, pricing it up if it wasn’t pre-priced, and then putting it on the shelves. We had to use spacers between each stack of tins and to ensure that the newest stock was always at the back of the display. We also had to regularly check the shelves to ensure that displays were tidy, and any depleted stocks were restocked promptly.

I stayed in the buffer for about a year before moving on the the dairy section, where my main tasks were stocking and cleaning the pre-cut cold meat, milk, cream, butter, margarine, and egg displays. I stayed there until I left school at the age of eighteen and moved on to full-time work at Coutts and Company, although I was offered the opportunity to become a trainee manager with Sainsburys.

Looking back, working at Sainsburys helped me to grow up and mature. Like every other newly-recruited worker, I was subject to a degree of what would now be regarded as low-level bullying (e.g. being told to go and get some tins of elbow grease from the warehouse) but once I learned to laugh when I was caught out, I was soon accepted by my coworkers.

The final incident was being invited to join the card school in the staff canteen one Saturday lunchtime. The game being played was whist, and the stakes were six pence per game. My coworkers obviously expected me to be an easy touch and I lost the first couple of hands we played. However, playing cards (particularly whist and crib) was something that my father enjoyed and from an early age I’d learned to count cards. By the end of that lunchtime I’d taken five shillings off each of the other players. After that, the bullying stopped … and I was never invited to play cards again!

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Just how much wargaming stuff do I own?

As the decluttering progresses, I keep asking myself just how much wargaming stuff do I own.

I have been working around my toy/wargame room doing a section at a time and packing away stuff in a variety of different crates and boxes ... almost all of which are from the range manufactured by Really Useful Boxes. However, I am discovering all sorts of stuff that I had forgotten that I had and that I don't think that I will need when I move home. I don't have the time or inclination to sell the excess on eBay, and I am trying to think of ways that I can pass on what I don't want to wargamers who might find a use for it and that will involve me in the minimum amount of time and effort.

Any sensible suggestions would be welcome.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

I have been to … Cavalier 2024

The last time I attended the CAVALIER wargame show in Tonbridge was in February 2020, less than five weeks after the Chinese government announced that an outbreak of a previously unknown virus had occurred in Wuhan.

That seems a lifetime ago … and those intervening four years have seen life-changing events for all of us.

As usual, the show was held in the Angel Centre in Tonbridge …

... but one has to wonder for how much longer it will be as the Centre has been slated for demolition by the local council as the current building is no longer fit for purpose.

My main reason for going was to meet up with a number of other wargamers, including David Crook (on the right) & Roy Rousell (on the left), ...

... Postie (AKA Stu), ...

... Henry Hyde, ...

... Nick Huband, ...

... Nigel Drury (on the left) & Pete Grizzell (on the right), ...

... and Big Lee (whose photo was so blurred that I decided not to us it) and to have a look at the various wargames that were on show. The show was spread over two rooms, the main hall ...

... and the Conway Room.


Retired Wargamers Reloaded

Hold until relieved: German counter-attack against the Ox and Bucks at Pegasus Bridge, 6th June 1944 (15mm)

Gravesend Gamers Guild

A Song of Ice and Fire (28mm)

Society of Ancients

Battle of Ilipa 208BC: Punic War action in Spain (28mm)

Friday Night Firefight Club

Fall of the Reich: Battle round the Reichstag in the last days of WW2 (28mm)

Milton Hundred Wargame Club

"Eine Bruecke zu Weit": An armoured bridge assault including a paradrop (1/100th)

Deal Wargames Society

Death on the Savannah (Survival of the Thickest): Can the Wildebeest cross the Savannah, hunted by lions and crossing a crocodile-infested river? (1/32nd)

South East Essex Military Society (SEEMS)

Nach Paris!: Franco-Prussian War (28mm)

Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society

Blood in the Lotus Garden: Honour Satisfied! Samurai Skirmish (28mm)

South London Warlords

We Do Not Kneel – Battle of the North Wall: An epic battle between the Night Watch and Free Folk (28mm)

Real Time Wargames

The Glittering River: Riverine Actions in the Russian Civil War 1917 - 1921 on river, land and air (1/600th)

Central London Wargames Club

Tally Ho Vera: Napoleonic (15mm)

Konfederacy of Eastbourne Gamers

Battle of Villamuriel: Napoleonic Peninsular Campaign (10mm)

Tonbridge Wargames Club

LRDG – The First Rogue Heroes: LRDG Raids in the Western Desert 1942 (28mm)

Cheshunt Wargames

Hoth: Star Wars (6mm)

Maidstone Wargames Society

The Summer of '77: The Battle of Britain (1/300th)

Rainham Wargames Club

Hammerin' Iron: Riverboat Action in the American Civil War (1/600th)

Interestingly, at the majority of the wargames I stopped to photograph, someone from the group or club staging it talked to me about their game. This is a vast improvement when compared to my experience at other shows over recent years and is to be applauded.

Monday 26 February 2024

Military History Plus podcasts: The second episode of the newest series

The ongoing process of decluttering my toy/wargame room has given me the opportunity to listen to the second of the latest series of Military History Plus podcasts.

This podcast is entitled WINSTON CHURCHILL – PT 2 – THE GREAT WAR and covers Churchill’s military experience and leadership during the Great War, including his tenure as First Lord of the Admiralty, his involvement in the Gallipoli Campaign, his service as a battalion commander on the Western Front, and his eventual return to a ministerial role as Minister of Munitions and Secretary of State for War.

As I have commented before, this excellent series of podcasts from Professor Gary Sheffield and Dr Spencer Jones is a joy to listen to, and I eagerly await each new episode's upload.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Making choices

As the decluttering gathers pace, I have been having to make decisions as to what will go into store for the medium to long-term, and what I will keep in my toy/wargame room until we have sold up and need to move home.

One thing that I have not put into store are my books. These are a useful source of information and inspiration that I want close at had as well as 'decorating' the room by their presence on the bookshelves. I also want to cull my book collection, but I want to take time to do this and so will probably leave this until our house is on the market.

My recently-built model railway layout (and all the locomotives and rolling stock) is also not going into storage. It does not take up a lot of room and can easily be stored in my toy/wargame room by resting the board against one of the room's walls.

I have also decided to keep one of my figure collections out of storage ... and decided that the Belle Époque one was the most obvious choice. It is relatively small, there is work that I can continue to do on it, and it will provide me with the opportunity to have the occasional wargame when the mood takes me. It is also likely to be the collection that will form the basis of my future solo wargaming projects in our new home and is therefore the obvious candidate for being readily available before and after we move.

Friday 23 February 2024

Wargaming China

The very first wargaming article that I wrote was published over fifty years ago in the WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER.

It was about a solo battle that I had fought between Chinese and Japanese troops during the early part of the Sino-Japanese War. I used Airfix British World War I infantry and artillery figures to represent the Chinese …

… and Fujimi Japanese World War II infantry and artillery and Airfix Japanese infantry for the Japanese forces.

I’ve always had an interest in this war … for which I partially blame Herge's THE BLUE LOTUS as the story deals with the incident that leads to the outbreak of the fighting between the Chinese and Japanese.

Whilst browsing YouTube I came across a very interesting channel entitled WARGAMING CHINA ...

... which describes itself in the following way:

This channel focuses on the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression 1931-45 or the Second Sino/Japanese War 1937/45 as its known in the west. It is a channel for modellers, wargamers, armchair historians and lovers of toy soldiers or anyone who is interested.

Since discovering it, I have spent several hours trawling though the numerous (over fifty) videos on the channel, and I particularly liked the ones that featured the scratch-built ship models that have been used in some of the tabletop battles.