Thursday, 29 May 2014

"Room service? Send up a larger room."

So said Groucho Marx. But then he hadn't seen the Wargaming Annexe, which has been formally handed over today in a suitably celebratory ceremony whose main feature was the passing across of large amounts of cash the other way. A full review will follow, but in the meantime here is a taster.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Brave and Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Many a true word

Two guys were discussing popular trends on sex, marriage, and family values.

Bill said, 'I didn't sleep with my wife before we got married, did you?'

Mike replied, 'I'm not sure, what was her maiden name?' 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


So, you all want to know, what has happened to the wargaming annexe? [N.B. most definitely not a rhetorical question] Well, progress has been negatively affected by preparations for the Tour de France. More news as and when.

A chap with a beard
Which just leaves time for some much needed words of wisdom from Marcus Aurelius: "When thou art beyond measure angry, bethink thee how momentary is man's life"

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

"Put that light out"

It seems almost an anticlimax to write anything about Triples after James' cogently argued critique. When the two individuals about whom he complains first approached us I thought they were joking. Certainly they looked as if they were sending themselves up; one of them even had a clipboard. Still, speaking as a wargamer, who am I to criticise anyone else for how they get their kicks.

SWS member at Triples

On to the show proper. I enjoyed it. It was the first time I'd been to both days of a two day show and I think it probably lasted a day longer than strictly necessary. My opinion may possibly have been coloured somewhat by the fact that it caused me to miss the entirety of what was probably the only sunny weekend of the year. Having said that, the hotel was fine and the meal on the Saturday evening very pleasant.

Another SWS member at Triples

I didn't spend any money at the show - neither with legitimate traders nor with spivvy, under-the-counter, black marketeers - but did enjoy the games. The Franco-Prussian relief map game, which I'm sure someone told me won, was lovely to look at. The game that I would most like to have played was the Indian Mutiny one. Naturally I have no photos, but I'm confident there will be plenty on the web.

James ponders whether to return to Triples in 2015

Zorndorf played out differently to either of the two practice runs through, showing once again what a good ruleset Piquet is for replayability at least. It was a very narrow Prussian victory driven essentially by the Fermor going mad and the Russian morale running out at pretty much the same time. Seydlitz's cavalry did get to charge in, but the majority of the Prussian cavalry once again performed abysmally. There must be a special mention of Combined Grenadier unit number 9 who withstood repeated overwhelming assaults despite having lost three stands early on.

Obviously I'm not one to brag, but despite the fact that I usually lose Wednesday night games, I am now 2 for 2 at conventions. Peter had a bad weekend because he also lost at Dead Man's Hand to a very young chap whose only tactic was to rush Wyatt Earp and colleagues straight towards the baddies firing all the while. It worked though.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Leaving the crease


‘It’s mending worse,’ he said,
Turning west his head,
Strands of anxiety ravelled like old rope,
Skitter of rain on the scorer’s shed
His only hope.

Seven down for forty-five,
Catches like stings from a hive,
And every man on the boundary appealing -
An evening when it’s bad to be alive,
And the swifts squealing.

Yet without boo or curse
He waits leg-break or hearse,
Obedient in each to lease and letter -
Life and the weather mending worse,
Or worsening better.

-  Norman Nicholson

Friday, 16 May 2014

Get your kicks

 'Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities' - Oscar Wilde

To Harrogate Theatre to see the Counterfeit Stones who were extremely entertaining. I'd heard they would be funny - which they were - but I was most impressed by their musical abilities. I'd never seen a tribute band before; perhaps both me and Oscar Wilde got it wrong. Anyway recommended both if you like decent covers of decent songs (Gimme Shelter was particularly good) and if your sense of humour is tickled by jokes about bass player Bill Hymen's favourite key being A minor.

"Bye-bye you bum, bye-bye you bum, bye-bye"

I promised exciting news about the wargaming annexe this week. Well the update is that the joiner has done half the work and then buggered off leaving vague promises of returning next week to finish it. Perhaps I should have seen that coming.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Zorndorf: the debacle

I managed to lose the refight of Zorndorf as the Russians without Seydlitz and his cavalry having to appear; a feat which takes some doing I think. Oddly, I'm not at all sure what I could have done differently. Probably I should have attacked with my left wing cavalry in order to divert attention away from my right wing, but I'm not sure it would have made a very decisive difference. There were the usual little vignettes where things could have easily gone the other way: one spectacular Prussian cavalry charge that routed a unit of grenadiers despite being virtually blown away by flanking fire as it charged in; a flanking manoeuvre followed by a point blank volley that caused no damage whatsoever followed by the flanking unit being flanked and destroyed in turn and the undamaged unit winning a melee against one of the large Observation Corps units with contemptuous ease; and a couple of others. However, to make a difference they would all have had to have gone the other way.

I'm not sure of the reasons why it happened that way. I suspect pre-assigned unit qualities had something to do with it, but only another refight on the same basis will prove that one way or the other. Roll on Triples. I think the one thing guaranteed is that Fermor must inevitably Go Mad at the earliest opportunity on Saturday. Speaking of which we played four turns and the Go Mad card was drawn first in the first three of them. Now what are the chances of that happening? (1) In the fourth by the way the card dealt out because of the inclusion of a Command Indecision card was the Command Indecision card itself.

The above is the cover of one of a new series of novels based on Piquet cards. James didn't require much persuasion to put on his little black dress and heels for the photo. Coming soon Peter in leopardskin as the model for 'Movement in Type III/IV', the exciting Lexi Graves mystery number four.

(1) about 30,000 to one as it happens, but just to remind everyone that the odds of whichever card sequence are turned over at the start of three turns is always 30,000 to one.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Young Man's Song

I whispered, ‘I am too young,’
And then, ‘I am old enough’;     
Wherefore I threw a penny       
To find out if I might love.           
‘Go and love, go and love, young man,          
If the lady be young and fair,’    
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,             
I am looped in the loops of her hair.       
Oh, love is the crooked thing,    
There is nobody wise enough     
To find out all that is in it,             
For he would be thinking of love              
Till the stars had run away,         
And the shadows eaten the moon.        
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,               
One cannot begin it too soon.

-  W.B.Yeats




Monday, 12 May 2014


So, I have disappeared again. A quick catch-up is required.
James once again offers Peter the benefits of his advice

Zorndorf, having stuttered to a halt, has Groundhog Day-like started up again. This time the final terrain changes encouraged Peter as the Prussians to press his attack across a wider front. He has had more success than I did last time around, but fortunately his pre-battle artillery bombardment wasn't as effective. The decisive element will be how Seydlitz's cavalry do against my right flank which I believe is the only place he can logically bring them on. Rule changes - quelle surprise - have meant no action so far for the Cossacks. But they're still there just in case. James rather forcibly pressed his copy of the Osprey into my hand as preparation for speaking to the punters at Triples - as if - and Peter, scheduled by James' OCD to read it next, will be pleased to learn that I did not follow instructions by reading it while having a dump.
"Why didn't they follow Fredrick's orders?"

Culture has been a bit light, but I did catch Robert Cray who was pretty damn good. If I'm honest I prefer my blues a bit grittier, but that's almost like criticising him for being too good a guitar player.

A shortened visit to the Victoria Hotel saw the obligatory opening game of Apples to Apples followed by Quantum and Alien Frontiers. The last two are of course completely different, but both feature dice as spaceships. I won what was my first game of Alien Frontiers by adopting a strategy of never buying any cards, a tactic I often follow in for example King of Tokyo. I think that Quantum manages that aspect better by giving you the cards for placing cubes (the object of the game) instead of you needing to buy them instead of placing colonies (the object of the game in Alien Frontiers). But what do I know? [Yes I know that the one thing I know is that that is a rhetorical question]

And expect big news on the wargaming annexe later this week.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

No ifs, no buts, no disability cuts

No doubt foremost amongst your worries is whether all this work has interfered with my dedication to cultural vultureness. Fear not, I am as pretentious as ever and have been packing them in.

First up was 'The Threepenny Opera' in a lyrically updated version by the Graeae Theatre Company that was in-your-face in a way that would doubtless have been admired by Brecht and Weill themselves. This is yet another of those classics that I had somehow managed to miss previously, although we are all familiar with the opening song. Altogether now:

"Oh the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white"

Graeae champion 'accessibility' and they integrate deaf, blind and physically disabled performers into the action in a performance enhancing manner that doesn't make one not notice them, but actually makes one glad that's the way it is. Personally I was very taken with the way that the BSL interpreters' roles became as important as the singing main characters. Top marks to Jude Mahon in particular.

Next was 'La Boheme' in a revived Opera North production, but one which still did it for me. Classic Puccini and one of those operas that I would urge those who have never been before to start with. Lush tunes, nonsensical plot and it doesn't end well for the heroine; what more could one want?

And finally Bedroom Farce, another play that I had seen before, and one that reinforces the point that British farceurs regard the word sardine as inherently amusing, although in this case the fishy comestibles are - in a very minor plot point - replaced in due course by pilchards. Despite that slightly incoherent exposition of the plot you should see it when it comes your way; as it will because it is regularly revived. As with any Alan Ayckbourn play one is guaranteed several laugh out loud moments. Oh, and can I just preempt any rumours that MS Foy may be about to spread on his blog; Mr Ayckbourn is as alive as his namesake Mr Bennett.

P.S. In one of life's unaccountable coincidences, immediately after writing the above I opened the door to a furniture delivery man who was whistling 'Mack the Knife'. Spooky.

Monday, 5 May 2014

El sueño de las manzanas

Gacela of the Dark Death

I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to withdraw from the tumult of cemetries.
I want to sleep the dream of that child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

I don't want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood,
that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water.
I don't want to learn of the tortures of the grass,
nor of the moon with a serpent's mouth
that labors before dawn.

I want to sleep awhile,
awhile, a minute, a century;
but all must know that I have not died;
that there is a stable of gold in my lips;
that I am the small friend of the West wing;
that I am the intense shadows of my tears.

Cover me at dawn with a veil,
because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me,
and wet with hard water my shoes
so that the pincers of the scorpion slide.

For I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to learn a lament that will cleanse me to earth;
for I want to live with that dark child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

No worries

Enough of strange folk customs that out forefathers may (or more likely may not) have been following since time immemorial. What about the wargaming?

Well, the run through of Zorndorf - the game that James is putting on at Triples - ended in a vaguely historical stalemate.Peter and the Russians had lots of troops, but no morale and I had the opposite. It was however a good game until that point. My grand cavalry charge didn't break through, but the impact in terms of initiative and morale chips prevented the Russians from counter attacking elsewhere. That and some continuing poor dice rolling on their part, except in melee where the cossacks stood up better than they had any right to.

Now then, rule changes. The latest involves a sort of quasi disordered/blown status as a result of interpenetrating. I think I'm comfortable with it, but I would make its removal free on turning of the appropriate card, at least for cavalry. My logic is that recovering from blown is the cavalry equivalent of reloading, which is free when the appropriate card is turned.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Forty effeminate blacksmiths

A man goes in to a pub and says "Do you serve Morris dancers?" 
"Oh yes" says the landlord. 
"Good" says the man. "I'll have a packet of crisps, and a Morris dancer for my dog".

I have been absent for a while because my professional career suddenly burst into life and I have been mingling with the self-consciously trendy denizens of the world of hi-tech. I will just remark cryptically that in the unlikely event that I ever feel the need to behave like that I shall regard a decent coffee machine as a higher priority than a ping-pong table. Anyway, I can't think of a better way to return than with some Morris dancing. 

Otley, the market town of about 15,000 souls a few miles downstream from Ilkley - epicentre of wargaming in lower Wharfedale - in which I have recently pitched my tent, is home to no less than three Morris sides. One of them, I think the lot pictured, is of the Border tradition; there is a female North Western tradition side; and the third lot seem to be of the Jazz/Funk persuasion. You may consider that to be three sides too many for such a small place; I couldn't possibly comment.

Anyway, the Wharfedale Wayzgoose, for it is they, were on what seemed to be a pub crawl round Otley today. Now Otley's pub estate has declined from the days when there were forty six (that's right forty six pubs for fifteen thousand people), but the event boasted of visiting twenty premises. I have long held the theory that warriors, at least in the days of close combat, would only have fought because they were drunk. Obviously the same is true of painting ones face and wearing feathers in one's hat and bells on one's trousers.

Most impressively one of them was performing the pub crawl bit on an invalid scooter from which he would rise to dance at each pub. Now that's the way to do it.