Friday 17 December 2021

Last Post for 2021

“Let’s hope its a good one, without any fear…”

 I realise it is probably a little on the early side but as I have rather a lot on over the next couple of weeks I thought I would sign off until next year - probably late in January given Laurel’s scheduled surgery on the 6th of January.

I will not be sorry to see the back of this year for a variety of reasons - most of which I have mentioned via the blog but with a few others in reserve. I have found it to be hugely helpful (to me in any event) using the blog as a vehicle to convey the various trial and tribulations that my family and I have experienced (and continue to do so) this year. The positive comments and words of support and encouragement - both on and off the blog - have been really appreciated as they have helped me over any number of rough spots over the last six months or so.

These are debts, large and small that I will never be able to repay other than to say that I will reciprocate the sentiment in equal measure when and where needed.

The new job is intense in ways I had not considered but very much in a positive way. Going from a small agency into a global spanning organisation was always going to be a cultural shock but with the support of the team I have joined I am confident that in time I will have a positive impact. 

We are mentally preparing ourselves for when Laurel is in hospital and also for her recovery afterwards. For the Nth time I am hugely grateful for the fact that my new role is remote rather than office based! We shall be visiting the hospital for Laurel’s Pre Op on 30th December - I am off work for the three days ‘twixt Christmas and the New Year - which should be a pretty quick process and then it is dropping her off  at 7am on the 6th. 

Oddly enough I ave been able to spend a little more time on gaming related bits and pieces and so work on the remaining ACW ships has resumed once again. I have also been looking at ideas around Operation Market Garden as well as something Colonial/VSF based. 

Mention of VSF reminds me that Steve Blease is rumoured to be working on an updated version of Aeronef - the game of Victorian aerial combat - and his page of Facebook showed a couple of recent games he has played. The models in use were scratch built dirigibles modelled by yours truly and sold to him years ago. It was great seeing these again and needless to say my thoughts have once again turned towards repeating the project. The funny thing is that I was also looking at using up a whole load of MDF hull templates to build some Cloudships and Sky Galleons based on Frank Chadwick’s Space 1889 series.

There is a project in there waiting to get out methinks….

I am still harbouring ideas for some skirmish style games using figures but as yet I have not really done much with the idea. There is also the block army refurbishment to think about and also getting back into some good old hex and counter board games.

Plenty to be going on with so no change there then!

Daniel Craig’s final Bond

I also finally got to see the final Daniel Craig Bond film: No Time to Die. I enjoyed it hugely although ca understand why some may have been underwhelmed by it. Bond came across as rather more mellow than in his previous appearances although still with the ‘grit’ element when needed. I have a theory as to how he will be ‘resurrected’ (he did say it was his hobby in Skyfall after all!) with a new actor taking up the mantle. Suffice it to say (and I will probably be completely wrong) that one should read the book of You Only Live Twice followed by The Man With the Golden Gun to see where my thoughts are on this one.

In the meantime though I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and all the best for a peaceful, prosperous and above all, healthy 2022 as well as, once again, offering my sincerest thanks.

See you all in the new year,

Thursday 9 December 2021

"Der Tag"

S.M.S. Kaiser of the German High Seas Fleet during World War 1

 As a very brief follow up to my previous post - with, as ever many thanks for all the kind words and thoughts, either on the blog or otherwise - we have the date in the calendar for Laurel's surgery as well as some background on what exactly is going on with her. "Der Tag" is January 6th 2022 so let us hope that this can be stuck to given events in the Covid world (number 10 Christmas parties notwithstanding....). The neurosurgeon has said around three hours for the surgery, four days in hospital and six weeks recovery time and so for the nth time I am hugely relieved that my new job (which I start next Monday) is based on working from home so that I can support her during this time. It is a relief to get some positive progress on the board with this and so hopefully 2022 will get off to a good start as a result.

Laurel is due a call with the consultant beforehand in which he will outline the details of the procedure and the associated recovery etc. It will also be a great opportunity for her to ask any questions she may have and needless to say a list is already forming! The date for this is the 24th December and I will be in close attendance.

"Der Tag" is of course what the Imperial German Navy referred to when clinking glasses of Hoch, Moselle or Schnapps in the ward room when discussing the seemingly inevitable clash with the Royal Navy in the years leading up to the Great War. Of course I am not comparing my beloved to a fleet of dreadnought battleships but given Bob Cordery's recent post about the Fletcher Pratt based Jutland game he took part in, as well as the importance of Laurel's surgery it seemed somehow appropriate....:-)

Monday 6 December 2021

'You're a kite dancing in a hurricane....'

The blog post title was, ahem, borrowed from the film SPECTRE. I have yet to see No Time to Die but will probably binge watch the Daniel Craig sequence in order before doing so.

For the last six months I have certainly felt like the title of this post for sure! On Friday last week Laurel had a long conversation with her Neurologist following her latest set of scans. The good news is that the suspected AVM/AVF does not in fact exist - the bad news is that she has what appears to be a benign Ependymona or tumour growing on her spine. They wanted her in for surgery this week but she deferred until January for two reasons. Firstly, another few weeks would not make any difference to her condition and secondly, she wanted to get Christmas and the New Year out of the way first. The surgery will take around three hours with a four day stay in hospital and a six week recovery period. With this in mind the fact that my new job is fully remote is a godsend as obviously I will be on hand to help her during her recovery. Needless to say this latest diagnosis came as a bit of a shock so we have spent a relatively quiet weekend coming to terms with it and carrying out some routine domestic chores.

The film of the Battle of the Bulge was certainly not Hollywood's finest hour but for all that it was an entertaining romp in a Flames of War kind of way!

I managed to get a few gaming related bits and pieces attended to especially around packaging some long outstanding parcels (apologies again to Aly and tradgardmastare) and sorting out some books. I have been looking long and hard again at Operation Market Garden as well the Battle of the Bulge which also has a place in the list of campaigns I have studied on and off over the years. I remember completing a free choice school project when I was around 12 about the Bulge campaign and used as the basis a book on battles in Western Europe by, as I recall, David Chandler although I stand to be corrected. the film version starring Henry Fonda and Robert Shaw is probably best left unmentioned despite being pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, if only for sheer entertainment value! The Panzerlied was pretty stirring though despite now being banned for use by the modern German Army.

Aside from the above I managed to rearrange my ship modelling bits and pieces so once I can resume work the raw material I use will be far easier to get at.

I hope to get a few more posts in before the end of the year but depending on when Laurel's surgery is I expect then to be off grid for a while but hopefully not too long.

Onwards and upwards.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Marcus Aurelius, Omar Khayyam and a New Beginning

Two of my favourite non military books - highly recommended for resetting one’s perspective on life

As we stare down the barrel of the fast approaching Christmas holidays I have often found myself reflecting over the various events of the last six months. There have been numerous ups and downs (rather more of the latter if truth be told) and I am not about to repeat the details of the various travails my family and I have experienced, and, to a certain extent, still are.

The inestimable value of the support of friends and family has never been more gratefully received and unconditionally given than now and that is worthy of high praise in itself. What then, of the times when the darkness seems all encompassing and no light to speak of shines in your direction? For sure I have had a few of those! 

I have previously mentioned that in the absence of any dedicated hobby time I have caught up with a lot of reading which has helped me no end. Aside from the usual round of military history, fantasy and science fiction that constitutes my routine fare, there are a couple of other books in my collection that I seem to have used almost as a form of therapy and are therefore, certainly worth mentioning.

I have enjoyed the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for many years and the book you see above was picked up at a boot sale sometime ago for 50p. It is unusual in that it features some 500 quatrains (4 line stanza with alternate rhyming lines) rather than the more usual 80 or so that formed Edward Fitzgerald's translation. E.H. Winfield was a translator of Persian literature and so his version is a more literal translation than the more popular Fitzgerald version. It is unlikely that all the 500 or so quatrains were written by Khayyam exclusively - more likely they have been lumped together as examples of a popular type of verse.

Khayyam's work has always appealed to me as it comes across as being unashamed of life and of living and of how we are but a part of it. I find it curiously settling.

I first came across the meditations of Marcus Aurelius via a penguin classic edition many years ago. The rather smart looking hardback you see above was published shortly after the release of the award winning film Gladiator starring Russel Crowe which featured the late Richard Harris playing the emperor Marcus Aurelius. The meditations are very much a list of guidelines as to how one should live one's life and are largely common sense based. Marcus Aurelius was described as being a 'Stoic' and the pages of his works certainly bear this out. Again, I have found many of his writings to be insightful and for me at least, aspirational in that logic and reason - two skills I am less than generously endowed with - should have an important part to play in one's life.

They say that wisdom comes with age and whilst I do not claim to be wise I do appear to have a better handle on the lessons that life has to give and how they impact on me. It also means that the words contained within those two books resonate far more effectively than in the days of my youth.

From the wargaming perspective both of these titles have featured as being support for a couple of projects that I had un days gone by. Many years ago I toyed with the idea of an Islamic Persian army for use with WRG 6th edition but reluctantly abandoned the idea as the painting would have been quite beyond me (at least to the standard I would have liked!). Marcus Aurelius and Gladiator - I had no interest in the armies of this period but I have long enjoyed gladiatorial combat games - it all started with Avalon Hill's Gladiator board game - as a great way to set up quick games that can add numerous players into the mix.

As an aside, another example of how my wargaming mind works goes back to when I first discovered WRG 6th edition ancients. I had a hankering for an Arab Conquest army so I duly undertook the appropriate research and as part of this decided to read the Koran - to see what drove the whole thing historically. It was quite a revelation and without going into detail I was quite taken with it.

Moving away from the above and the rather tenuous wargaming links, I have some other news to share. On the 13th December I shall be joining a new company and recruiting on an 'in house' basis rather than via the agency side. I have long wanted to do this but felt that at 61 years of age that particular ship had sailed. Aside from the very generous salary uplift the best news for me (especially given the current situation with Laurel and her back) is that the role is designed to be fully remote. This means that I will be saving some twelve hours so a week on travelling time as well some £4K a year on a train ticket. I will need to pop into town from time to time but certainly not on a regular basis. The company will supply me with a brand new laptop and mobile phone and any stationary requirements I need are delivered to my home.

I cannot tell you how pleased I am with piece of good news after the horror show of the last six months - for the record I have only touched on some of the 'stuff' we have been dealing with - and so hopefully we will be able to look forward to a 2022 that will be - god willing - better.

Let us hope so....