King Stépan IV's pleasure dome at Kragoneidin, on the shores of Lake Polishov

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Response to the Stylish Blogger Award










Sure he is stylish, but can he write?










It is high time to respond properly to the Stylish Blogger Award, which was generously granted to Despatches from Syldavia by Alan of the Duchy of Tradgardland.  As I understand them, the conditions of the award require that I post a link to the award’s donor, so click here to pay Tradgardland a visit (and say Syldavia sent you!)  

Also, I am to reveal seven unknown things about myself.  Well, I’m 6’6”, a former astronaut and…

Well, you already knew all that.  Here are six other things:

1) My roots in this this curious hobby go back to a childhood gift of some Britons guardsmen, then of some Timpo knights which were followed by my own purchases of Airfix 1/72 figures, bought with saved-up small change.  After quite some long time, I stumbled on some old lead toy soldiers that needed repainting, did so and so came to the realisation  that I could paint my Airfix soldiers.  My model was not just any old thing, it was Félix Phillipoteaux’s tableau of French cuirassiers charging a square of Highlanders at Waterloo, a picture of which I found in a book.  Stirring stuff even when shrunk to a page, the real thing (at the V&A) is a dizzying, larger than life epic.  I recall horses bearing very fierce looking armoured troopers pouring into the centre of the painting, the Highlanders grimly bracing themselves off to the left, wreckage to the right, and cavalry charges extending off into the distance.  Better than a movie and I was hooked in a moment (the first one is for free, kid) and still am.  No doubt this story sounds familiar to you…

2) I have been lucky enough to visit a few Napoleonic battlefields.  I once worked in Portugal and quite by chance spent a few days at the battlefield of Vimeiro.  I was on the foreslope of the hill occupied by Craufurd and Nightingal.  I also put my hands on the table where Jean-Andoche Junot signed his capitulation.  I have fond memories of  a fabulous little restaurant in the village that served a tasty local wine.  I spent a little more time at my table there than Junot did at his.  Nearby were fortifications of the famous Lines of Torres Vedres and in that town were cafés serving espresso and delicious little bean tarts. Strange but very tasty.  I enjoy food and drink as you might have noticed.

3) I also once spent some time in the ruins of  a tiny castle in the Ardennes once owned by Godfroi of Bouillon.  He mortgaged his lands to the Bishop of Liege in order to finance his crusader army (1st crusade).  It paid off as he became King of Jerusalem, but died there in 1100.  One story told around there (that corner of Belgium) concerning his death is that he ate a poisoned apple sent by the malevolent Bishop, who did not want to return the land to the newly-enriched King.  You know what they say, « An apple a day… ».  Belgium was wonderful place to be a student and there was of course loads of absolutely splendid Belgian beer to be had in the local.  And there is always a local…

4) As for war gaming, readers will know that I am currently working in 15mm but am planning a classic Grant-style project.  I have RSM and Mindens at the moment and am looking forward to seeing my own Sittangbad-esque scenario in the big and spacious 28mm-1/56th scale.  

5) The first wargames store I ever saw was the defunct Minifigs/Skytex shop in London, near Victoria Station.  This was back in the age of Punk and I hadn’t yet seen anything better than Airfix and a few copies of Military Modelling. Imagine the revelation brought by seeing figures mounted on bases, let alone all that stock on display.  It was Aladdin's cave!  I still remember the thrill and I still have the catalogue as well.

6) Lets see, what else?  My formal introduction to organised social (that is to say not solo) wargames with experienced gamers came with people who were motivated by the ideal of a moving diorama.  Some of their tables were very beautiful and as a result of that, I spent a lot of effort in pursuit of "realism", though obviously falling short of my goal.  Stumbling upon EvE and the Old School-inspired sites of its readers was a wake-up for me and I’ve since read Grant Sr., Jr, Young and Lawford, etc.  What great fun!  I’m sold and like the Old School "it is a game" ethic but I have to say that I still find the visual esthetic almost terrifying in its simplicity.  The distracting excesses of realism are swept away, leaving flat, non-textured green-painted surfaces, terraced hills, etc; it is all quite abstracted.  That is taking me some time to get used to we’ll see how I work out a compromise. 

7) Last thing – and it is my worst character flaw – I’m chronically late.  Nevertheless, I do finish my projects, and Syldavia will be completed.  There is a plan and progress, even if you can’t see it from your side of the screen.  I look forward to presenting it.


Finally, Nominate other bloggers for the coveted award.

At the current pace of things, pretty much every site I visit is nominated or soon will be!  That is odd for an award, but it is a good thing, as this process lets us point out who and what is inspiring and generates a little discussion.  I’m a great fan of several sites, especially of some that are widely admired and I believe already so honoured.  Rather than gilding the lily, I’ll nominate a couple of sites that have not yet been noted (so far as I know):

1) The Hetzenberg Chronicles (http://hetzenberg.blogspot.com/

AJ’s well-known and much appreciated serialized novella is to my mind a fun and original experiment in building an complex and playful story as the backdrop for a wargames campaign. 

2) Desperta Ferro ! http://desperta-ferro-ed.blogspot.com/  and Defiant Principality (http://what-if-catalonia.blogspot.com/

Lluis’ sites about WSS campaigns in Spain, uniforms and wargames also have a storyline, lots of game results and are really active. 

3) Frundsberg Freistadt (http://frundsbergfs.blogspot.com/)   Fireatwill’s site also boasts an intrigue-filled storyline married to a campaign.  Great fun.  

 and here are a couple that are a little off the beaten EvE track :


Really useful and interesting 18th century digitized books and other things.


Not 18th century, but lots of very well-painted Medievals and Ancients in 15mm, and really skillful terrain building.  Mr. Swampster does everything I want to do, except better.


Finally, I have two compatriots (two so far as I know) in the Syldavian imaginations biz:

6) FUNNY LITTLE WARS - GARDEN CAMPAIGNS - BORDURIA CALLING

Paul‘s project is all about the interwar period, and looks pretty much like authentic Hergé, relaxed and very playful.  I wish I could campaign in my yard too, but there is all that snow ! You have to admire his courage or question his judgement however; he has taken up the side of the Bordurians… 

and 7) Alan at Tradgardland, has worked Syldavia into his 18th century Imagi-nation and ventured into the interwar period himself.  Alan’s blog is ample evidence of an active and unfettered imagination (and thank goodness!) and it was a key motivation for me to go public with my own modest project. 

5 comments:

  1. A splendid read ! By the by the Golden Sun link appears to be broken and I cannot seem to get to th epage at all...
    best wishes
    Alan

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  2. The Golden Sun link has an extra http://...etc. on it. The correct link is:

    http://goldensuninn.blogspot.com/


    -- Jeff

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  3. Jeff,

    The link is now fixed, I think.

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  4. Why, thank you kindly for the nomination! =) I've been chronically busy of late so the SBA has rather eluded me.

    I remember that Minifig shop! The guy serving me had no patience. He kept tutting every few seconds as I looked over the goodies. I nearly asked him (sarcastically) if the shop had death-watch beetle because of the regular ticking sound.

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  5. Hi AJ,

    Although I was rather young then, and highly distracted by all the stock on offer, your description of the Minifigs staff (this was 1979 or 80) rings a distant bell. I seem to recall an older, terse guy fussing about the books I was pouring over. I was only ever there once and the neighbourhood wasn't really so gritty in retrospect. Nevertheless, by the time I got back in London some years later the area around Victoria Station had been cleaned out and gentrified -hello wine bars, bye bye to the punks, the marital aids shops (I was scandalized!) and Minifigs!

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