Monday, 30 July 2007


30 days without a smoke!

I went back up to GBHQ in Evesham on Wednesday to bring my poor little car home, which turned out to be exactly the right time to do it. As I walked through the door I was met by the sight of Darren sorting out the masters of the new Saxons that Soapy has done. I immediately went into froth overdrive and lost all composure as I lovingly inspected each one in turn and marvelled at the magic that Soaps can conjure from a lump of putty. Inspirational stuff, pure toy soldier gold. Even better, Darren 'The Philanthropist' Harding then really made my day by telling me to help myself to some, so I loaded up with Saxons before leaving. I always feel a little uncomfortable about accepting freebies, I don't know why, and Darren's continuing charity toward me is starting to make me feel guilty. I really must tell him that I'm not as poor as I make out. But not before I get my hands on the new Romano-Brits when they're done.

Which reminds me, I need to do some serious puppy-eyes at Bill next time I see him in yet another of my pathetic attempts to get my hands on some of his Saxons for free. I've tried flattery, pretending I'm terminally skint, turning up at his house dressed in rags. I've even swamped my car to try and wring some sympathy and free lead out of him, but nothing works. The man has a heart of stone.

After returning from Hot Lead I dived into my lead mountain to see if I could put together a Romano-British army, now that my interest in gaming had been reignited. After my weekend at GB I couldn't wait to get painting and gaming again. I bought most of my Romano-Brits about 9 years ago after reading Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles, started painting them, then became a dad, so wargaming had to take a prolonged back seat. Fate is inexorable. Then a couple of years back I bought a Late Roman force, painted up a unit, and went to my local club for the first time since before I joined the army. There was a WAB game in progress when I arrived and some of the guys playing it got into a really heated debate as to wether or not a war elephant would do in real life what the rules said it would. There was lots of rules referencing and teddies were getting thrown everywhere. And I thought the whole point of a game was to have some fun. I politely made my excuses and left, never to return, although I never lost my passion for toy soldiers.

And now I have a problem. Do I crack on with my Late Romans cos I've already got a unit painted, therefore it's less painting to get an army together? Or do I return to my love for Dark Ages British warfare and do my Romano-Brits? It's time for a command decision, unfortunately though I'm being too wishy-washy to make a choice. The other problem is the condition of my R-Brits. After doing what I thought was a lovely paint-job on them, including hand-painting a bulls-head motif on each shield, my then partner, whilst in a phone conversation with a friend, decided that my figure case had no place on the kitchen table, so she grabbed the handle and quickly swung it through the air to wherever she thought it should be. Without checking if the catches were locked. I walked into the kitchen just as she was in mid-swing, and the rest happened in horrific slow motion. I yelled "noooooooo!" as the lid flew open and my prized comitatus briefly joined the Airborne, flying out across the kitchen in all directions before crashing onto the tiled floor and bouncing off under the fridge and other inaccessible places. As I fought back the tears I realised that no amount of varnishing would have ever been enough to save them, and I was right. I rescued what I thought was salvageable, the rest got a dip in Nitromors. It was the most humane thing I could do for em.

The Survivors, chipped paint 'n' all

Actually, while I'm writing this I've come to the decision that I'm gonna make it my mission to restore them to their former glory, reinforce their ranks and ultimately lead them to defeat on the tabletop. That's sorted that little conundrum then. I'm also going to replace the leader model. Nice figure, but I was never happy with the way he ranked-up anyway. Viewed from the front it looks as if his mind is definately not on the forthcoming battle, but completely elsewhere, as is his hand. Not conduct becoming a leader of men methinks. Furthermore, I'm also going to paint up a couple of Romano-Brits I sculpted to help blag my way into working for GB. They can take their place in the front rank now that they have successfully completed their primary objective. I'll stick with the shield design as well, the idea behind it being that these guys are all Mithraists and are happy to proclaim their beliefs on their shields, just so that any Saxon dogs who get in their way know exactly who is coming to kill them. No namby-pamby Christians in this man's army.

Anyway, here's some more pictures of my toys, Late Romans this time. Not quite Andy Hawes, but they look nice on the table. Well they would if they ever get there.

And here's one of some of my 20mm Waffen SS, led by the fearless Sturmbannfuhrer Von Karelgis und Schpitt der Hund. Cos I like the camo and they have actually won a few battles. And the halftracks look cool too.

Uh oh, that came out a bit on the small side. Nevermind, I can't be bothered mucking about with it anymore.

That's all, folks. Time to go and watch Transformers.

Take it easy


Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Bill & Chris' Excellent Adventure

Or maybe that should be 'Bogus Journey'. Either way, not totally bodacious, dude.

On Friday I set out for Gripping Beast HQ in Evesham (you can guess what's going to happen already) with a fistfull of greens for Lord S and his minions, amid pouring rain. I'd only travelled a few miles out of Cardiff when I began to question the wisdom of continuing since my car had travelled more distance by aqua-planing than actually making contact with the road surface. Ah, sod it, I thought. It'll probably clear so I'll crack on. Besides, I was picking up my Evil Overlord Darth Thornhill from his secret Valleys hideaway, and didn't want to incur His wrath by cancelling his jolly to the Beast. Anyway, I was running out of putty and he's Da Man to give me my fix, so I needed to get at least that far.

After what was quite frankly the most terrifying driving experience in my life I arrived at Bill's and expressed my concerns about going further. He fixed me with his dark, menacing gaze and said "Ah, we'll be alright. Let's go."

Whereas a more intelligent or slightly stronger-willed person would have stuck to his guns and refused to drive any further, I, being an easily-led muppet open to suggestion, went "Dur, alright mate, where's the nearest petrol station?" and off we went. Bad move Chris. Very, very bad move.

We headed off towards the Midlands and, to be fair, the weather wasn't too bad until we hit the M50 when all hell broke loose. The rest of the journey was man versus the elements, torrential rain, flooding roads, and some dickhead tail-gating us and flashing his lights as we travelled up the outside lane, when pulling into the sea of water that was the inside lane was quite clearly suicidal. By the time we had got off the M5 and hit the road to Evesham I was once again a quivering wreck. We then spent hours in traffic jams and/or trying to find alternative routes into Evesham to no avail. So we crawled along for hours until we were confronted by a small lake occupying what used to be a stretch of the A46. We spent a short while weighing-up the pros and cons of driving through it and observing others attempting it, and they seemed to get through it without too many problems. Since we had been on the road for about 5 hours so far, mostly spent stationary or barely moving, and were only about 7 miles from GB, we had got our squaddie heads on and there was no way we were going to be defeated by a puddle at this stage.

It's worth pointing out at this juncture that there was no possibility of turning round and going back home. Nothing was moving in the other direction due to the motorways being closed because of flooding. We had also successfully driven through larger, deeper bodies of water when trying to find another route, so this one shouldn't have posed a problem. Oh dear, how wrong can one be?

Without further ado, I gunned the engine and went for it. In we went, ploughing our way through the water, nothing was gonna stop us. Past the halfway mark and heading into the shallows, 4 or 5 metres to go and dry land held out her promise of sweet salvation. We grinned at each other like a pair of stoned monkeys. Yeeha! Mother Nature, bring it on! Don't f*** with the sculptors, bitch!

And then the guy in front of us stopped to let someone else come the other way, and there wasn't enough space to get round him. Game over. The engine stopped and we sat looking down at the water swirling in around our knees. Bugger. I must have called the other driver every name under the sun, and a few that haven't been invented yet. This was no longer funny, and it was time for a severe sense of humour failure on my part.

At times like this, the old Blitz Spirit kicks in with us Brits, so instead of leaping out of my car and kicking the other drivers head in like I should have, we all laughed at our predicament in a jolly stiff upper-lipped fashion and helped push each others cars out to safety. After taking a few pics for posterity, Bill and I donned our waterproofs and started to tab the rest of the way. Needless to say it was still pissing down and I started whinging. Bill told me to stop being so pessimistic as he strided ahead. I glowered at his back and continued muttering under my breath. Up the road and over the hill we went.

Which was when we saw the river flowing across the road, a 300 metre or so stretch of brown water with a rather scary looking current going across it at about mid-way. What they describe on the news as a 'torrent of water'. This was filled with abandoned cars, vans, lorries and other vehicles. Bill reckons we can make it across, I reckon we're about to die. It's waist-deep for god's sake. But the alternative was to wait to be rescued by helicopter at some point and since we were both soaked through and getting colder by the minute, death by drowning seemed preferable to death by hypothermia, so we waded in. By now I had stopped moaning and was yet again laughing in the face of adversity, and I suspect Bill hadn't enjoyed himself so much since he'd left the army. After all, it wasn't his car, was it?

Bill provided my best 'I told you so' moment when he suggested that we move along by holding on to the bushes at the side of the road. I ventured that this wasn't such a great idea as there was probably a drainage ditch running alongside them, which he dismissed with a cavalier disdain. 2 minutes later he shouts "Er, Chris! I think I found that ditch you were on about." I looked up to see Bill holding on to a branch in water about 2 feet deeper than I was standing in. Hehe.

On we went. The worst bit was fighting to stay upright as we went through the bit that the river was raging through. It was the debris being dragged along under the surface that worried us as it was wrapping itself around our legs before being dragged free again. Scary stuff. Once past the dangerous bit our inner squaddies surfaced again and we stopped to take photos of each other grinning in the water while the civvies on dry land looked on at such foolishness with horrified expressions. I was actually enjoying myself, mainly because despite being almost up to my waist in floodwater, I had managed to keep my nuts dry. At which point an articulated lorry came charging through the water, and I mean charging, throwing up a bow wave about a foot high. The twat. We braced ourselves but even though I stood on tip-toes, there was no avoiding it. My balls were soaked. Cue another Vaga-sized epic blow-out.

We reached dry land without further incident and a very nice lady offered us and another bloke a lift back to Evesham even though water was pouring from us. Top girl.

We eventually arrived at Beast Towers at around 7.30, approximately 8 hours after we had left South Wales. Which was when the weekend suddenly got a lot better. Darren and Stu were waiting for us with hot food and cold beer, and Stu, gawd bless him, even managed to conjure up two complete sets of dry clothing for us! Amazing. After recounting our sorry tale and getting some munch down our necks, we had a game of WAB, Bills Saxons stuffing my Welsh convincingly, and not for the last time that weekend.

We ended up staying at Darrens house for the next 3 nights, and a jolly good time was had by all. Since it was Hot Lead on Sunday and we couldn't go anywhere till my car had been rescued, Bill and I took part in the event, which I will cover presently. On Saturday me and Bill drew some curious looks in Tescos when, dressed in a mixture of Darrens and Stu's clothes (not a picture of sartorial elegance), we shopped together for underwear like a pair of big girls blouses and even bought a twin pack of toothbrushes. Gay or what? A bunch of gamers who had come up on Saturday for Hot lead turned up and to my surprise turned out to be great lads, not an anorak among em. Yeah, like as if geeky anorak types get allowed across the door at a GB event. Lord S and the indefatigueable Soapy arrived as well and in the evening we all hit the pub before going for a curry. As I sat there necking down the free beer (courtesy of the Beasties) and curry, I looked along the table at my company and realised that I haven't seen such a lot of out-and-out Wrong 'Uns gathered in one place since I watched The Godfather. I wouldn't have let them into my curry-house.

After the curry we all piled back to Darrens house where 11 people spent a merry night playing poker, drinking more beer and being very rowdy. Darren's neighbours didn't even complain about the noise. Then again, if Darren was my neighbour then neither would I.

Sunday, and on to the main event! Thanks to all the guys I played against who very sportingly helped me out with the WAB rules after I explained that I was a WAB newbie, especially James Morris who provided with me with my only victory of the day, and a good one at that. Lord Sherwell very kindly lent me his beautifully-painted Welsh army for the event, and I thanked him by breaking off the Army Battle Standard in the first game, which I thought he took rather well. So I'm off to his country pile next weekend for a week of mucking out the stables in recompense, which I'm told is quite lenient for his Lordship.

All in all, a great event and one that has left me thouroughly enthused about playing with toy soldiers again. I met some great people and feel that being stranded provided me with an unique opportunity to bond with the Beasties, in a manly way of course.
Big, BIG thanks to Darren, Andy and Stu for their hospitality in my hour of need. They made sure that me and Bill wanted for nothing and we owe them big-time. I even got to stomp about in Darrens 14-hole oxblood Doc Martens for the weekend while my trainers dried out. Now that's charity. And to top it all, my sculpts went down rather well with just about everyone, so I'm told, so hurrah! for me. Wicked stuff.

Oh, and we got home in the end.

So, three cheers for Gripping Beast, surely the World's foremost miniatures company and the nicest guys in the industry. Go out and buy lots of stuff from them - now.

That's it.

Take it easy, stay dry.


Thursday, 12 July 2007


Day 12 without a fag, and it's not getting any easier. In fact I'm even grumpier than I was on the first day without a smoke and that's saying something. It's not as if I've noticed any real benefits either. Granted, I smell sweeter. But I don't feel any healthier, certainly don't look any better, and the nicotine gum is costing me an effing fortune. On top of that I no longer know what to do with myself while I'm waiting for putty to cure and end up pacing up and down my living room like a demented Polar bear in a zoo. Why am I putting myself through this? Okay, so I may live slightly longer, but then again I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and then I'll be seriously pissed off that I put myself through 2 weeks of agony for nowt. And what if the damage is already done? I've smoked on and off since I was fifteen so I could be too late anyway. They say that every cigarette is another nail in your coffin. Well, mine must be made of cast-iron by now.

My, what a little ray of sunshine I am today ;o)

My mood hasn't been helped by a couple of sculpting disasters this week. I was working on a figure yesterday that was shaping-up to be my best yet. Boy, it was looking good. But something didn't quite look right. I checked and double-checked all the proportions several times, but somehow scale-creep got in there and it ended up taller and thinner than it was supposed to be. So I shaved his shoulders, took a bit out of his neck and bulked him out a bit - the little bugger was far too slender to survive on a battlefield. I sat up till the wee hours and gave him a coat of mail, then went to bed feeling slightly vexed at the lost time but ultimately happy that I'd got it sorted. Then I got up today and had another look at my handiwork. The mail loked crap and worst of all, his head was way too small. Bugger bugger bugger bugger. So I cut it all off and am now working on it for the second time around. What gets me is that these things keep on happening. I always get there in the end but it takes way too long and gets a little demoralising at times. Ah well, practice makes perfect, every journey starts with the first step, Rome wasn't built in a day and other such bollocks....

Hey! It's just occurred to me that things ain't so bad after all! I mean, I'm learning to sculpt Humans, but I've got Humanoids down to a tee. Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree and ought to re-direct my efforts at the sci-fi/fantasy market when they go pear-shaped. That way I can knock out any old pile of pants that was supposed to resemble some vikings, call them something like 'Blood Guardians of Zoggoth' or some such nonsense, and flog them by the shed-load to spotty RPG playing students. I can see it now..... "My Blood Guardian gets D20 attacks due to his indeterminate number of arms and eyes on the sides of his head." Ker-ching!

Elsewhere, check out Soapy's updated blog featuring some of the new Saxons that he's done. Damn, that boy is good! I feel like crying. They're hidden at the bottom of the page where Darren won't find em, very ingenious, Soaps. Nice horsies too.

I'll post some pics myself once I've checked that it won't get me into trouble....

That bloody spider is still up to no good in my car. I opened the rear door behind the drivers seat yesterday to move some stuff so my daughter could get in, only to find my way barred by a VERY big cobweb. It's not one of those itsy-bitsy little Money-spiders you know, it's the real deal. I'll have him.

I suppose I'd better get back to work, no point in delaying the inevitable. Just time for another cup of tea first though...

Later peeps


Monday, 9 July 2007

Arachnid Attack

Driving Dan back to his mums house yesterday when out of the corner of my eye I noticed something sinister-looking dangling from my car window at face-level. The hairs on the back of my neck sprang up instantly as I recognised the danger - Spider Attack! As the window was fully-opened I tried to brush it out, but at 30mph it flew right back in at me, all big and hairy, legs flailing madly, no doubt pumping venom right to the tips of its fangs as it prepared to take me out. I immediately counter-attacked using a technique employed by arachnophobes the world over - going "Aaargh!" whilst frantically trying to brush it away without actually making contact with the beast. Needless to say I still kept one hand on the steering wheel and one eye on the road. This resulted in the spider disappearing somewhere inside my car, to no doubt re-group before his second assault. So I pulled over to iniate some serious seek-and-destroy. Daniel doesn't like spiders either and I swear he was out of the car and onto the pavement before I'd got the handbrake on.

Did I mention I don't like spiders? I'm not scared of em, just don't like them. Honest.

Anyway, a quick search failed to locate said spider, so we resumed our journey lest I got D home late which would have resulted in me getting some ear-ache off his mum. We got there on time and without the creeping terror putting in another appearance, which saved me from having to explain my tardiness. Dan recounted the tale to his mum and sister, leaving nothing out, including (unfortunately for me) the bit where he volunteered " And Dad said the f-word." Oh dear, she was not impressed. Kids eh? Dontcha love em?

The trouble is that every time I get in my car now I have to give it the once-over to see if I can catch it. Oh, sorry, I mean kill it. Savagely. I know he's in there somewhere, just waiting for the opportunity to strike. It's no coincidence that my rear-view mirror fell off during the return journey. He's probably up to no good right now, sawing through my brake pipes or something. I can feel his dark malevolence. It's him or me. And I ain't going down without a fight.

And I know that someone, somewhere, will be saying things like "But it's only a spider, it's more scared of you than you are of it." No it ain't, believe me. Or another favourite is "Spiders are good, they catch flies." What? Not under my bed they don't. Or behind my toilet. I'm okay with spiders as long as they stay where they're supposed to be - outdoors. But when they invade my domain, their asses are mine.

So I didn't get much done yesterday apart from soldering some armatures and posing them ready for some putty, which took ages cos of the soldering part, proving yet again my total ineptness at anything remotely practical. But I got there in the end and only burnt myself once.

My daughter Bethan is 15 today, Happy Birthday sweetheart! I'm off to her party soon, and I frankly can't be bothered writing any more today, so that's it from me.

Take it easy


Saturday, 7 July 2007


After helping me finish off two bottles of wine last night and staying up till a ridiculously early hour this morning, my beautiful and amazing partner Caz went out at 9.30am and passed her grading for her Tae-Kwondo red belt with flying colours - well done, girl, I'm really proud of ya. 12 months till black belt, woohoo! I really don't know how she does it. I've still got a sore head and have felt like crap all day, which has got to be a sign of growing old - I swear my resistance to alcohol is a fraction of what it used to be - while she, after qualifying for her red belt, went on to do a full training session followed by a Tae-Kwondo demo at a fete for the benefit of gaining new members to her club. What a gal! She has spent the whole week fretting over her grading and was really worried about her ability to remember her Korean words for all the moves and other Tae-Kwondo related stuff. So I've spent the last couple of nights testing her on it all, which is a bit of a tall order for a man who can barely string together a sentence in English. Or any other language for that matter.

We've known each other since she started working with me over a year ago, and we've talked and talked and talked to one another every single day since. We know everything there is to know about each other. Or so I thought. Then last night she casually mentions in passing that she can break blocks of wood with her fist and is the only female at her club (which has got about 500 members) who can do so! How cool is that? It's not for nothing that Caz is current Welsh champ in her division for the second time around, and a one-time British champion. Now, I'm a fairly big man, used to box and played rugby for my regiment, and there's no way I'd class myself as a wuss, but I'm still the only bloke I know whose missus can knock seven shades of brown stuff out of him. She's well 'ard. Or 'Hard as foook' as she says, being the good Yorkshire lass that she is. I reckon she could take that Chuck Norris any day. You bet I never forget her birthday. And I do the washing-up.

I've got my son Daniel staying with me till Sunday, so I won't be sculpting till he's gone back to his mum tomorrow. He's 8 years old and my best mate, and we have a wicked laugh together. He's well into Warhammer 40K even though he doesn't really understand the rules much beyond the basics, which means that dad gets to experience the joy of spending 2 hours every other Sunday morning at our local GW's Beginners Club inhaling the pungent odour of lots of over-excited little boys crammed into a very small space. Oh, and the even more pungent odour
of teenagers and other types who wouldn't know the meaning of 'personal hygiene' if it went over them in a truck. Driven by a Romanian. You gotta respect the GW staff and their Nostrils Of Iron.

Day seven without a cigarette! Go Chris, go! You da man.

Well, that's it for now. Time for a Nicorette break...

Take it easy y'all

Friday, 6 July 2007

AAAARGH! I need a fag!

No I don't. If I tell myself that often enough then maybe, just maybe, the craving will just go away and I'll be at peace with the world.

Hello and welcome. Yup, as you might have guessed I've recently given up the weed and I'm now into day six without my rollies, and I'm ready to kill. So I thought I'd start a blog to chronicle my forays into the dark and uncompromising world of miniature sculpting, mainly to give my hands something to do while I'm taking a break from pushing putty into something vaguely resembling toy soldiers, partly to share my battle against the urge to light one up and hasten my demise, and most importantly to prevent my present short temper from doing something that will end in my incarceration. It will also give people that I'm supposed to be doing some work for the opportunity to check-up on what sort of progress (if any) that I'm making on the job they've given me....hmm, I could be getting myself into trouble here...

So, other than giving up smoking,what other events have occurred this week? Well, I've had yet another near-death experience at the hands of an East European lorry driver, the latest in a line of many. I won't bore you with the details, but I was nearly smeared across the cenral reservation by him pulling out as I attempted to overtake him on a two-lane stretch of motorway. Having learnt from experience that the outcome of overtaking one of these guys is as predictable as pogo-sticking in a minefield, I was ready for it and applied the brakes before I became yet another statistic. I eventually passed him without further incident, opening my window as I did so to let him know what I thought of him using international sign language. It beats me why this keeps happening - the law of averages suggests that I can't be the only driver in the UK to have this experience, so why do they do it? Having left-hand drive is no excuse, I've never had any trouble with say French or German trucks, it seems to me to be a uniquely East European trait. Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, whatever; it's probably some deep-rooted psychological desire to get us back for selling them out to Stalin at the end of WW2 or something. Either that or they're consumed by a pathological desire to find out who would win in a fight between an articulated lorry and a family car. My family car.

Ok, rant over.

On the sculpting front I've resumed work on some Vikings for Gripping Beast after a break due to moving home. At this point I'd like to thank the Beasts for a) giving me my first sculpting job, and b) having the patience of a saint (well, two saints). I'm not the fastest sculptor in the world to say the least, although I'm pleased to say that recently my speed has increased to 'glacial', so that's a bit of a result. Thanks also to Soapy for saying encouraging stuff to me and guidance on technical issues, and even bigger thanks to my personal sculpting guru Bill of Musketeer Miniatures fame, who is currently getting trench-foot camping out at Bovington this weekend.

Speaking of whom, I'm currently working on a viking with cross-strapped binding thingies (there's probably a proper name for them, buggered if I know what it is) over his trousers at the moment , something I haven't attempted before. I once asked Bill how he did them on his outrageously sexy Saxons and he told me that I would need to, and I quote, "titivate the putty". Oo-er, sounds rude to me. Is it legal? I'm sure there are web sites devoted to that sort of thing you know.

Two little Norse dudes out for a ruck
The one on the right is based on one of Soapy's dollies