Tuesday 30 April 2013

Butcher Jack

Having completed my latest instalment of the Flashman papers, 'Flashman at the Charge' it seemed only appropriate to paint up a miniature that was in some way related to that ill fated cavalry engagement during the Crimea War of 1854.

This fine, two piece miniature was part of a Charge of the Light Brigade character pack from 'Great War Miniatures' available through 'North Star Military Figures' and was great fun to do.  

I first became aware of the exploits of Trooper John Vahey of the 17th Lancers when reading Terry Brighton's wonderful, 'Hell Riders'.  'Butcher Jack' is one of those characters that populate the annuls of British Military History, the sort of chap legends are crafted around.   Acting as the regimental butcher, Jack spent the night before Balaclava under guard because of over-indulging in commissariat rum.  When he awoke the next morning, "deucedly muzzy" the camp was empty, returning to his tent for a refresher from an inexhaustible rum bottle he became aware that the Light Brigade was forming up in the valley below.

Although no regimental mounts were available to him, 'Butcher Jack' was able to take advantage of a riderless Russian pony, its saddle emptied by the 'Charge of the Heavy Brigade' earlier that morning.  So it was that Jack Vahey trotted up to take his position in the line still in his bloody overalls and wielding a butcher's axe.  

'Butcher Jack' would go on to survive the charge and avoid a court martial instead he was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions on that fateful day.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Book Review#16. - Flashman at the Charge

This will be the third time that I’ve seen fit to write the briefest of reviews about another of George MacDonald Fraser's ‘Flashman’ books and so far all have been magnificently entertaining.
Our cowardly and lecherous Flashy continues to find himself at some of the most dangerous hot spots of 19th century history, usually looking for a place to hide, trembling in fear as the heat of battle reaches fever pitch, praying that he is not discovered by the enemy or, more likely, the cuckolded husband of his latest conquest!

As with all MacDonald Fraser's tall tales, it is his ability to weave fact into fiction that makes them so appealing and ‘Flashman at the Charge’ is no exception.   Apparently Fraser’s ‘favourite’ novel, Flashman’s behaviour continues to appall and delight in equal measures and while it might seem unnecessary to keep apologising for some of the language used it is important, nonetheless, to say that some might find it uncomfortable.   

In this instalment of the recently discovered Flashman Papers our eponymous antihero is persuaded out of retirement to nursemaid one of Queen Victoria's cousins through the seemingly unavoidable Crimea campaign.  Little is to go Flashy's way as he is somehow an unwitting participant at the 'The Thin Red Line', the 'Charge of the Heavy Brigade' and ultimately, powered by fear and flatulence, ill-fated 'Charge of the Light Brigade'.  

If the morning's work wasn't bad enough he is immediately captured by the fearsome Russians and here begins another great adventure across the snow covered Steppe, ultimately leading to the North West frontier and an action that would see Flashman defending the Jewel in the Crown!  Undeniably my favourite yet and a hugely entertaining yarn, that brings out the best, and perhaps more entertainingly, the worst of Harry Paget Flashman Esq. to the fore - a flatulence favoured four crowns!

Sunday 21 April 2013

The Obligatory Post Salute Post!

My goodness what a day!  Bathed in early morning sunshine, myself and the 'Provost Marshal' travelled up from the coast to gorge ourselves at the halls of plenty, more commonly referred to as 'Salute'.  I have to confess that I've been as giddy as a schoolboy in the run up to the great day, but as we stepped off the train at Custom House I was all to keenly aware that I was becoming a stereotype - a gentleman of a certain age, follically challenged, belt fastened precariously at the last hole carrying an empty rucksack; oh well, we all have to embrace our inner geek sooner or later.  Having arrived at the Excel centre in good time we were confronted by a vast queue that was clearly not destined for the London Marathon registration (see previous note on stereotypes!) but having had the foresight to advance order our tickets we were able to walk straight in.  

Having charged the camera the night before in readiness, counted up the pocket money and printed out the wish list I though that I was a ready as I could be, but try as the 'Provost Marshal' did to instil some form of order to the proceedings the shroud of 'shinybloodyitis' descended and I was held in a frenzied bout of purchasing until lunchtime!   So distracted was I by all things shiny that the only real photograph I took was a test shot of my beloved Earl Grey! 

As for the loot, well pre-ordering is definitely the way to go and the day was all about getting my grubby hands on the 'In Her Majesty's Name' merchandise.  That said I always have to swing by my old favourites, 'Empress Miniatures' and Mutineer Miniatures' to add to the burgeoning lead pile and then it was really down to looking for characters to flesh out my zombie hunting team that I've got planned for later in the year.

The final highlight was of course meeting up with fellow bloggers at lunchtime and whilst it was lovely to see familiar faces, I'm afraid that I didn't meet as many of you as I hoped, the result of a certain amount of nervous trepidation and please accept my apologies for that - perhaps name badges next year chaps?  That said I was able to add a few more faces to names and hand over Sidney's prize from the recent draw and with the somewhat lengthy debrief at the local hostelry amiably concluded I was able to fall into bed a tired, but happy chap.  

Thursday 18 April 2013

The Mighty Motor Home

I've finally got around to giving the mighty Motor Home an outing.  This wonderful hunk of resin is available from those good people at 'Slug Industries', the company set up by '6milPhil' and his son, 'The Boy Slug' to produce a limited range of bespoke resin loveliness ranging from Hesco Barriers to Art Deco houses.

This is a two piece cast and so I fiddled around with the base while deciding which way to go on the paint scheme, but ultimately it had to be a homage to Dale's R.V. in the wonderful series, 'The Walking Dead'.  Armed with the appropriate reference material the model was given a black undercoat, then several coats of paint later I had returned the vehicle to its original colour - sometimes I marvel at my own stupidity! 

Slowly, but surely it started to come to life but I was soon faced with more decisions, this time how to render the windscreens?  Phil had made mention of posting updates of his own progress with the Motor Home over at the 'Lead Adventure Forum' so I thought I would pop over and steal glean some  inspiration.  With a certain amount of serendipity I stumbled across a post by the Talented Mr. Bungle who had painted urban landscapes as reflections in the windscreens (the original post can be found here.) - I just had to give this a go!

With the addition of some weathering, rust patches and paint chips to the chassis the basic paint job was complete; now it was just the small matter of fixing the decals.  Here again I need to pause to praise the great customer service of 'Slug Industries'.  My first set of decals fell foul of an apparent 'black hole' in the postal service, but without any hesitation a second set was winging its way to 'Awdry Towers', but my goodness I'd forgotten how fiddly these water slide transfers can be!  

Fortunately for me the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry' was out when I tried to affix these infernal transfers so much of what was angrily muttered has been lost, most certainly for the best!  Again I should point out that there is nothing at all wrong with the decals, just that my clumsiness made their application much harder than it should have been.  

 I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out love how it looks next to the miniatures. I did notice that there had been some debate over at the 'Lead Adventure Forum' with regards to its size, hinting that it might have been a little on the small side.  I, for one have to disagree; yes it is small in scale but if it were to the exact proportions required for '28mm Undead Warfare' then it would just simply become too unwieldy and dominate the table.

As an added bonus my version made it to the 'Slug Industries' PDF catalogue, perfect for browsing their eclectic range in readiness for some 'Salute' purchases; you can get your copy here.

Monday 15 April 2013

Something For The Pot...

...the build

Still flushed with my success in scooping the 'Challengers' Choice' award in the '3rd Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge' it suddenly occurred to me that I haven't actually posted the work in progress shots that I took as the project developed.

The cannibals themselves had been an impulse purchase having recently finished reading Robert Edric's, 'The Book of the Heathen'.  Hugely entertaining to do they had received some favourable feedback including one seemingly throw away comment from Dave D of 'One man and his brushes' who wrote,

Rather fine - they are stunners Michael.  Now where is the big cooking pot? - you could use blinky lights as the fire, and then you would need water for the pot- come on you know you want too.. :-)

Well that was it, the seed was sown and when shortly after that a pair of blinky lights arrived in the post from Dave, I knew I was doomed.  Having squirrelled together some other bits and pieces including  Games Workshop skulls, some more North Star Miniatures Cannibals and baboons (I had recently read their on line article about converting them to Mandrills) I promptly hit a snag and the whole project got mothballed.  When the challenge came around it was Dave again that pointed out that there were other non military categories available and the whole project rose phoenix like from the yet to be lit ashes.  

The problem that had stalled the project the first time around still needed to be resolved though - what to use for the pot?  I had considered all manner of items including doll's house furniture and various tops from plastic bottles, but nothing seemed to come close to what I imagined in my minds eye - pulp, yet robustly built.  In the end it was a humble table tennis ball that came to my rescue, the top third cut and inverted to give the impression of depth without having to resort to filling the whole thing with stew!  Greenstuff, ball bearings, beads and a plastic zombie's arm became the dish of the day and the project was well and truly back under steam.

I knew I had to build a space to hide the blinky and from that came the idea of a separate platform, with a shelf of skulls, a macabre trophy cabinet.  I had envisaged the 'chef' overseeing proceedings from here, but was running the risk of the the whole project towering out of control and becoming too vertical in its build so instead opted for the Mandrill guardians to be patrolling the higher areas.  

I imagined this pot to have been in use for some time, becoming an old favourite that couldn't be thrown away, patched and made good as the need arose.  With this in mind I cut up strips of foil and glued in a haphazard manner, but be careful with what glue you use or you could find your balls shrivelling in front of your eyes - something to be avoided at all costs!  As for rivets, I invested in a mini hole punch which was perfect for punching through sheets of plastic card, plenty more projects for this in the future.

With a few snips and judicious placement of some greenstuff a couple of humble baboons become the mysterious and vicious guardians of the pot.  All that remained was a liberal spreading of pumice gel, a few small stones and some chain and the build was complete, just the painting then!

The painting was actually fairly straightforward with many of the lessons learnt from 'A Tale 3 Painters' and the use of metallics, matt medium and glazes all revisited to good effect.  The soup, once painted, was covered in Vallejo's 'Still Water' medium just to really sell the illusion; tufts, static grass and vines all helped to complete the project.

completed base with blinky light

That, as they say, was that; a hugely entertaining modelling and painting project and one that had started off as little more that comment on a post.  It is these impulse projects that are often the most rewarding and this was no exception, but where next?

Finally I've managed to take some decent photographs showing off the blinky to its full effect. 

Friday 12 April 2013

Loki's Great Hall Birthday Giveaway

Just the briefest of posts to draw attention to Andrew Saunders fabulous blog, 'Loki's Great Hall', which has just celebrated its second birthday.  Andrew is running a wonderfully generous giveaway that is not to be missed so don't waste time leaving a comment here but follow the link to join in the fun.   

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Double Celebrations

On Monday morning, just as the Saintly Mrs. Awdry and I were about to head out on our mini break to the Norfolk Broads, I decided to quickly check my email - knowing that this would be the last opportunity for a couple of days.  There, forwarded on from my gmail account was a comment posted by Anne O'Leary that simply read,

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR STELLAR WINS IN THE CHALLENGE! Now, I've got to go as I'm not commenting anywhere else for another week :) 

All very strange, thought I and so I crept along to the mighty 'Analogue Hobbies', to see what was afoot.  Low and behold Curt had published a list of the winners to the ancillary categories that made up this year's challenge.  Whilst I was under absolutely no illusions that I was in with a shout of winning the competition proper, so to speak, I was keen to give a good showing of myself in some of these other categories - so you can imagine just how thrilled I was to read that I had scooped two of them!

The Challengers' Choice - voted for by those who had taken part in the challenge, was awarded to the Cannibal Cooking Pot.

The People's Choice Award - voted for by visitors to 'Analogue Hobbies' that had not taken part in the challenge and awarded to the 'Seven Greyscale Samurai'.

I really love to paint and collect 28mm miniatures, I also harbour ambitions to lead them into great battles one day, provided of course that I ever complete enough of one unit to do so!  I am very fortunate that my loving wife, the Saintly Mrs. Awdry is supportive in this venture, seeing it as a much needed foil to a busy and demanding job, but I am also equally fortunate to have been able to share my ramblings and developing painting style through the wonders of the infoweb.  The mutual support, sharing of information and of course humour are cherished commodities, particularly when they come from one's peers.  This is why, when one receives such recognition, that is important to stress just how much it means to me personally.     In the flurry of activity as we were trying to head out the door I left the following comment on Curt's post, 

I'm hugely flattered and a little embarrassed to have been given the nod, so to speak, but I must thank and honour all the other contestants for without them there could be no challenge. Their continuous stream of quality entries just made me really delve deep into my imagination and draw on skills I hadn't really appreciated that I had - thank you all. As for our esteemed challenge co-coordinator, one word - legend!

Possibly a little clumsy, not to mention somewhat gushing, I still stand by what I wrote, there were so very many excellent entries all of which inspirational in their own right and please take the time to visit 'Analogue Hobbies' to see for yourself particularly the other winners, which can be found here.

So what of the future?  I think the Knighthood suggested by Ray Rousell is unlikely so it will have to simply be more of the same.  With 'Salute' just around the corner, I'm sure there will be armfuls of goodies that will be purchased and hidden away until next year's Challenge stirs us all into life again, but must importantly to me will the constant inspiration and ideas gleaned from you all - thank you!

Friday 5 April 2013

Hopping Vampires

These wonderfully bizarre denizens of the night from 'Black Hat Miniatures' were supposed to have been a Halloween post last year, but with one thing and another they just didn't get done.  Although not technically historical miniatures, I did manage to shoehorn them into the closing rounds of 'The 3rd Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge' under the disguise of sleepwalking Chinese priests, but was never really happy with the initial results.  So after a period of inactivity I have decided to ease myself back into the painting chair by reworking them a little.

Original challenge entry

So what on earth is a Chinese "hopping" vampire or zombie?  Simply put it is a type of reanimated corpse prolific in Chinese legends and folklore.  The 'Jiangshi' rest during the day in a coffin or other suitably dark and dank lair - I understand caves are popular!    At night, however, they move around by hopping, with their arms outstretched.  Now I appreciate that this doesn't sound very scary but be warned as they kill living creatures to absorb their 'qi' or life force.

Just to put your minds at rest I have found various deterrents used in the banishing of these beastly bloodsuckers and list them here for your convenience:

  • Mirrors,  Hopping Vampires are said to be terrified of their own reflections; well do you blame them?
  • A rooster's call, "Ghosts withdraw when they hear a rooster's call", how very poetic!
  • Jujube seeds, "Nail seven jujube seeds into the acupoints on a corpse's back"; not sure about this one, sounds decidedly problematic to me.
  • Fire; always a favourite.
  • Hooves of a black donkey; I ask you!
  • Thread stained with black ink; not what I would be looking for if I came across a Hopping Vampire, but each to their own and finally,
  • Blood of a black dog (see author's previous note!)

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Unnecessarily excited!

Well the tickets have arrived, the travel arrangements are under negotiation (I fancy an earlier start this year) so all that remains is the wish list!  

There is the small matter of picking up my pre-order of 'In Her Majesty's Name' miniatures, which is going to take some smuggling back into 'Awdry Towers' I can tell you, but what else?

I will of course have to pay a visit to my beloved 'Empress Miniatures' and the wonderful 'Mutineer Miniatures'; both have some great new additions that have caught my eye including the stunning British 32-pounder Naval Gun with crew below.

Empress Miniatures loveliness 

After that, well anything is possible; I need some reinforcements for my zombie battling survivors and Star Wars: X-Wing is proving very hard to resist!   One of the real highlights is of course the opportunity to meet up with fellow hobbyists and bloggers and I do hope that there will be a gathering of sorts over a coffee or two again this year.  Until then, I feel the need to get a few more things cleared from the painting table, if only to make room for all the new shiny toys!

Monday 1 April 2013

28mm Marie Celeste Crew

You must excuse my excitement, but I just couldn't wait to share this wonderful discovery with you all. For the life of me I can't remember ordering this exquisite box of miniatures and so you can imagine my surprise when they dropped onto the doormat of 'Awdry Towers'; mind you I say 'dropped' but I never actually heard them arrive, I simply became aware that they were there, such is their ethereal quality.

Now I freely admit that there has been a noticeable absence of things nautical, here at '28mm Victorian Warfare' as I am, after all, somewhat of a landlubber – ships being a necessary evil, particularly when it comes to the transportation of the requisite components required in the blending of my beloved Earl Grey tea.  That said the mystery that surrounded the stricken Marie Celeste and its luckless crew saw them elevated to the front of the painting queue.

Box contents

The company, 'Mysterious Minis' and their sculptor, the prolific talent that is Ffwl Ebrill, have done a tremendous job on this project.  The hard plastic sprues are comparable to the best of the 'Perry Miniatures' ranges and the fine detail is so exquisite that one could easily be forgiven for missing it altogether; as for mould lines, they are simply non existent on this product - a real boon indeed!

The variation and historical accuracy are fabulous and careful construction means that virtually the whole crew of seven can be represented without a single pose duplicated. The Captain, Benjamin Briggs (third from left in the photograph below) is superb – his Abraham Lincoln look reminds one of Captain Ahab no less!  As for Roger, the Cabin Boy (far right) his expression is one of absolute joy, standing as he is next to the ship's Master, Bates. 

Ready for painting on Fenris Games bases.

 The miniatures were not as easy to paint as one had hoped, the clothing of a C19th merchantman’s crew was somewhat sober at best, and one’s painting skills were certainly put to the test.  In a bid to render the desired palette, I resorted to what felt like an infinitesimal amount of near translucent washes; time consuming, but ultimately rewarding.  

A lovely addition to the box was the inclusion of a white metal table and bench, just perfect to represent that last meal or to offer some clue as to the fate of the crew; you can almost read the date at the top of the parchment - April 1st!

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