Monday, 11 March 2019
Sunday, 14 January 2018
...and rather surprised to see all my Photobucket-hosted photos still on the blog. Who knows what's going on - did I somehow renew my account automatically and consequently they let me off the USD 400 per month charge? It's a good thing, of course. Let's see what happens...In the meantime, a fantastic holiday was had in New Zealand. We flew in to Christchurch, where it was 31 C. That proved a bit too much for the boys, but we had a wonderful first day walking around the beautiful botanical gardens; there was something about walking amongst flowers in bright sunshine that seemed to lift my jet-lag and mood more generally - instantly I felt like I'd been on holiday for a week already. The botanical gardens contrast with central Christchurch, much of which was destroyed by the earthquakes of 2011, including the historic cathedral. The damage was worse than I had realised (notwithstanding the appalling death toll), but the people who live there are clearly eager to rebuild. I'll do a separate post on what I saw in the local museum.
We then drove down through Lake Tekapo (or "take a poo" as the boys called it...) and Lake Wanaka to Queenstown, the self-styled "adventure capital of NZ". Situated above Lake Wanaka is the glorious Rippon Vineyard - see the photo above. This is often what you see when you Google "NZ wine" - it's one of the most beautiful vineyard settings in the world. Queenstown is more brash than Wanaka, but has easy access to the wineries of Central Otago and all sorts of outdoor pursuits if wine isn't your thing.
The landscape of central South Island - all lakes and mountains.
The very blue Lake Tekapo.
Vines in the Gibbston Valley near Queenstown.
The Gibbston Valley is good couple of degrees hotter than its surroundings - an excellent place to grow grapes.
Chips for the boys and a tasting flight for the grown-ups - something for everyone.
Seriously, though - are we done with wine tasting now?
Queenstown itself is located on Lake Wakatipu, which in films has stood in for Loch Ness.
Kawarau River - scene of Queenstown's famous bungee jumping experience (just behind where the photo was taken).
In the middle of this photo of Lake Pukaki you can just see the peak of Mt Cook above the clouds.
It was then time for a leisurely drive back to Christchurch through the Waipara wine region - Black Estate and Greystone being particular favourites among the wineries we visited.
Vineyards in Waipara, north Canterbury.
Hugo at Villa Maria's winery restaurant/cellar door at Mangere near Auckland airport.
We flew back to North Island so we could spend Christmas with the Kiwi's family, who live about 2-3 hours' drive south of Auckland in Tauranga. We drove down after an excellent luch with friends at Villa Maria's winery restaurant just outside the airport. At Tauranga I met up with wargaming friends Valleyboy and Captain Chook, both of whom have now built new homes with proper customised wargames rooms. After a few days with the whanau we travelled back up past Auckland for a final week staying by the beach at Omaha, near Matakana. Matakana is another small wine region just an hour's drive out of Auckland. Like Waiheke Island off the Auckland coast, Matakana is mainly known for its Bordeaux-style red blends.
The serene vineyard at Brick Bay, Matakana.
Monty on the sculpture trail at Brick Bay.
Vines at Ascension Vineyard.
Sunset in Omaha.
When there's a storm outside all you can really do is sit back and drink some of the country's best wines...
Unfortunately the final two days of the holiday were spent in the company of a tropical cyclone, but that aside we were very lucky with the weather. We had about 2 hours' rain over Christmas, I think, but that aside it was pretty much 25-30 degree heat the whole trip. Even near Mount Cook it didn't dip much below 18 Celsius. We visited a couple of museum that contained militaria, and I'll post about those in due course. It was a wonderful holiday, probably the first NZ trip that the boys will really rermember (even thought it's Hugo's 4th, and my 7th); hard to believe that we now have the long 3-4 year wait until the next visit. When planning this blog post I was tempted to go on a rant about airplanes and flying, but Legatus Hedlius does that sort of thing so much better. Suffice to say that I am constantly amazed, and infuriated, by the selfishness of other travellers/passengers and the complete inadequacy of airplane food (they should just give up and cut prices a bit accordingly). I had some interesting chats with my father- and brother-in-law about the UK, Brexit and NZ identity - again, perhaps this is best left for another time. Another highlight was discussing the Ashes tour with my Australian brother-in-law - that was the first time I've been called a "Pommie bastard". I think it wasn't meant maliciously, but sometimes it's hard to tell with the Aussies...
A lot of wine was consumed, of course. My holiday notes confirm that we visited 27 winery cellar doors and I drank at least one glass of 133 wines (including a truly execrable white from France served up by Singapore Airlines). Down in South Island it was all about pinot gris, Riesling and pinot noir. I didn't really warm to Otago's sauvignon blancs, as they are usually barrel-aged and mixed in with a bit of Semillon - perfectly good wines but I'm just too used to the traditional NZ sauvignon blanc style. The pinot noirs, on the other hand, were gorgeous (if expensive). Up in Waipara we had some lovely cool-climate chardonnays and Matakana provided some fruity roses and robust, but elegant, reds. Passing my in-laws' allowed me to pick up some wines that have been resting there for a few years - I opened my Dry River whites, a riesling and pinot gris, which were wonderfully aged examples of the varieties, which reminded me of the famous Hugel wines from Alsace. You'll never go thirsty in NZ - craft beer is the hot thing now and we enjoyed a few of those too.
So for those interested in such things, wine highlights were as follows: Mount Riley Limited Release Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016; Gibbston Valley China Terrace Chardonnay 2015; Amisfield Pinot Noir 2014; Brennan Pinot Noir 2009 and 2011; Brennan Pinot Gris 2014; Waipara Hills Equinox Chardonnay 2015; Maude EMW Pinot Noir 2016; Pegasus Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2013; Mt. Rosa Pinot Gris 2016; Man O'War "Exiled" Pinot Gris 2016; Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2017; Sileni "Cut Cane" Hawke's Bay Merlot 2015; Villa Maria Reserve Malbec 2009; Crossroads Winemakers Collection Cabernet Franc 2010; Mills Reef Port 2006; Esk Valley "The Terraces" 2004; anything from Chard Farm (in Otago) and Black Estate (in Waipara).
Stonyridge's "Larose" - possibly NZ's greatest red wine.
Sunday, 3 December 2017
So here, by way of a test example with new Imageshack links, are some "wip" photos of various things I've been working on and playing around with. I've found that, almost subconsciously, I'm been drifting towards games and periods that I think my boys would be interested in. The pirates are all Foundry figures, and will form a sort of Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago meets Blackbeard sort of game. So I've fallen badly behind with posting photos of what I've been painting - mainly Napoleon in Egypt things and about 60 pirates (many of which are "touch-up" figures I painted about 25 years ago). This does mean, however, that I should be able to hit the ground running next year when I return from NZ. Have a great Christmas everyone.
All new paints.
Far left a "touch-up"; other two are new paints.
Two are "touch-ups; two are new paints - not saying which!
The current state of my Napoleon in Egypt project.
What's currently on the workbench; along with skeletons and more pirates...
Tuesday, 12 September 2017
6 figures. Painted June - August 2017.
Monday, 4 September 2017
I painted these figures a good while ago and then forgot about them. A photo of them appears in the fourth "British Grenadier!" scenario book to accompany the Newport scenario. I wanted to use up all my remaining metal "marching" figures, so there are a number of different packs and manufacturers represented here. At one end is a base of four of Eureka's "ragged Continental" figures - this is the company that hasn't received its new uniform issue yet (but are still marching proudly).
The blog's been quiet recently for various reasons. I have some more AWI cavalry to post about shortly and then...Napoleon in Egypt week!
20 figures. Painted December 2014 to February 2015. Flag by GMB.
Monday, 10 July 2017
A quick update - like others in this hobby, and indeed many other hobbies, I have used Photobucket as an image hosting service. By now I expect most readers will have heard about Photobucket's change of terms and the global reaction to its removal of (largely) free third-party hosting services. Photobucket's decision at the end of July to vary their terms and conditions without any notice, so causing millions (I assume, using their own published figures) of photos to vanish from blogs and forums, has not gone down well. As plenty of others have said, this has cost them the goodwill and trust of customers, even those who are prepared to pay the "ransom demand" or are, like me, on existing plans. I have a paid account with Photobucket: I have been on their "plus-20" plan for several years, paying around USD 60 a year. I've no idea whether the company made money out of that USD 60, but I didn't mind paying an annual subscription for the use of an enhanced service with greater bandwith that presumably ultimately cost Photobucket something to provide. USD 60 seemed reasonable; I'd probably be prepared to pay USD 80-100. However, what I'm not prepared to do is pay the USD 400 that Photobucket are now asking for.
Now there may in the near future be a sea-change in people's opinion, and a realisation that for something as important in our lives as social media activity a price has to be paid. I'm not the only person who's happily been blogging and Facebooking away for years on the basis that doing so is basically free. I even started a Twitter account earlier in the year, largely to berate the train company that operates my local commute (not in my own name, of course - my Twitter persona is an Australian-born South African called Wesley who likes cricket and ballet; he sounds fascinating and I'd love to meet him). That's also free. I don't even have to pay for my mobile phone - work picks up that tab. All of us enjoy spending a great deal of time using services, websites and online accounts that we haven't had to pay for; and now we resent being told that, actually, the people who provide these things want to earn some money from doing so. It was about 2-3 years ago that I noticed just how many newspapers and journals now charge for access to websites that had been free to use since the internet was invented. Next, it seems, will be the turn of social media providers to move to a similar model. I don't think that stamping one's foot and shouting "it's been free so far; how dare you charge for it now" is that helpful, although it's certainly understandable. These providers are businesses and if advertising, which brought in revenue on the basis of the numbers of users who could be targeted, is no longer proving financially viable then I can see why other avenues should be explored. Nor do I think that shouting "it's corporate greed" is really justified. The market sets its own price, and I sense that people will shortly have to decide just how much their social media activity is worth to them.
So I understand that nothing in this world is "free". But my feeling at the moment, given all the other claims on my wallet, is that no blog is worth USD 400 each year. Photobucket have described this amount as being "competitive", and maybe it is when compared with the cost of building your own hosting website from scratch. But for the casual internet user, it's currently unjustifiable. My plan was paid for in advance, so I understand that the photos on this blog will not vanish until that plan expires. I'm trying to work out exactly when that will be - I think in November/early December, but possibly earlier. But unless Photobucket drastically reduce their new fee, at that point my images will disappear and this blog will become redundant. So like many other people I'm currently trying to find a cost-effective alternative for third-party hosting, although I've noticed that a couple of popular alternatives don't appear to allow third party hosting. For the reasons above I don't have much hope that we aren't seeing the beginning of a major change in the cost of social media usage, and that what's "free" today is unlikely to be so in two years time. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for alternative hosting options....
Tuesday, 27 June 2017
The Black Watch returned to America in 1776, having spent time raising fresh recruits in Scotland after news of the rebellion reached Britain. Stirling appears to have been at pains to train his regiment in frontier-style fighting. The regiment fought in the New York campaigns of 1776 and 1777. Stirling and his men performed notably in the attack on Fort Washington in November 1776 - General Howe wrote in his General Orders that he "is extremely sensible of the Universal Spirit and Alacrity which evidently animated all the Troops that were Yesterday engaged, and desires his particular thanks may be given ... To Lieut.-Col. Sterling, and the 42d. Regiment...". In June 1777 Stirling, like other senior officers, began receiving brigade commands, initially comprising the 33nd Foot and the two battalions of the Black Watch. In February 1779 he commanded troops from those regiments and the light companies of the Guards in a raid on Elizabethtown, New Jersey. This time Stirling received plaudits from the American side - the New Jersey Journal stated that "Colonel Stirling who commanded the detachment shewed himself throughout the whole expedition not only the officer, but the well bred gentlemen..."
On 1 May 1779 Stirling was appointed to an honorary position, as Aide-de-Camp to the King. In June he was breveted to the rank of brigadier general and he was given what was nicknamed the "Royal Brigade", of the 7th Foot (the Royal Fusiliers), the 23rd Foot (the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) and the 42nd (the Royal Highlanders). However, this brigade was sadly short-lived and the other regiments were soon replaced with the 63rd and 64th. In 1780 Stirling was badly wounded by a musket ball in the leg in a skirmish near the Connecticut Farms during Knyphausen's attack on New Jersey. Surgeons did not expect him to survive; he did, but his days on active service days were over. Letters to his relatives show that his recovery was slow and painful, but he successfully managed to prevent amputation of his leg.
Despite his wound, he continued to progress up the ranks. He became colonel of the 71st Foot in 1782 and later that year was promoted to major-general. In 1790 he became colonel of the 41st Foot. Promotion to lieutenant-general came in May 1796 and finally to full general in 1801. In 1799 he succeeded his elder brother as baronet of Ardoch, but Thomas was unmarried and childless and so the baronetcy came to end when he died in 1808.
This is the second of the King's Mountain Miniatures Highland officers I painted last year, following on from the 71st Foot's James Baird. Stirling appears as a brigade commander in the Harlem Heights scenario in the 3rd Caliver/"British Grenadier" scenario book. As I noted with the Baird figure, the right arm is separate so you can position it how you like and this pose is different to Baird's. I probably should have given Stirling powdered hair; but to be honest, I hadn't decided who this figure was going to be when I painted it! But it's good that finally, after over 10 years, my 42nd Foot finally have their commander.
1 figure. Painted April 2016.