Strike day … and an interesting present!

Unlike most of my colleagues, I am not on strike today. My union – the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) – did not ballot for strike action as part of the industrial dispute that the teaching profession has – along with many other public sector workers – with the Government over proposed changes to the various public sector pension schemes.

The ‘management’ of the school – acting on the instructions of the local authority – has kept the school open … with the result that the building is almost empty. The students had not been informed as to which of their teachers would or would not be at work today … and so most of them have ‘voted’ with their feet and not bothered to come in. Those that have come in have had to get through the picket line outside the school gates … and this has been an added deterrent to some of them actually making it in to lessons.

I do not teach until halfway through the morning, so I have been using the time until I do to have a good clear out. I have filled the recycling bin with huge amounts of ‘waste’ paper (mainly documents sent out by the ‘management’ for my ‘guidance’ [i.e. obedience!]) and have filled four storage boxes with students marked work that has to be retained until a year after their course has ended. I am about to begin the process of ‘tidying up’ my area on the computer system. I have already deleted over 4,500 internal emails that I have been sent over the past three years (which is an average of just over 7.5 emails per working day,) and after my lesson this morning I will begin the process of rationalising and archiving my computer work files.

I have actually found the process of ‘tidying up’ very cathartic, and it has been excellent preparation for when I leave on 8th July.

PS. One of my students has just arrived with a ‘Thank you’ present from him and his family. It is a bottle of a special Hungarian herbal drink that is usually drunk as either a digestif or apéritif. It is called ‘Unicum’ … an interesting name, eh?

I wonder if I will enjoy drinking it?

Its nice to be valued …

Some weeks ago I was told that my existing contract would end at the end of this term … which is the 15th July. As I would have completed forty years in the teaching profession (both as a trainee and fully qualified teacher), it seemed like an ideal time to ‘retire’.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I was casually informed that a decision had been made to terminate my contract a week earlier on Friday 8th July, along with those of all the other contractors currently employed. No warning, no ‘Thank you’, no nothing.

The decision was apparently made by the school’s Governors to ‘save money’. Isn’t it nice to be valued so highly by the school’s ‘management’?

The choice of the 8th July means that I will leave work for what will probably be the last time … and go straight to COW2011.

What a way to celebrate my ‘retirement’!

Paddy Griffith: One year on

It is just over a year since I first heard that Paddy Griffith had suddenly died. It was less than a fortnight before COW2010, and I had been looking forward to seeing him again after a gap of several years. It was not to be.

Since then several people have been helping Paddy‘s wife and son to ensure that his legacy of unpublished work will be available for generations to come to read and study. Amongst them are Andy Callan, who has arranged for the bulk of Paddy’s historical papers to become part of the Liddell Hart archive at King’s College, London, and John Curry, who has begun the process of publishing Paddy‘s wargames. The work that these gentlemen have done deserves to be remembered … and one year on from Paddy‘s death seems to be an appropriate time to do so.

Thank you Andy and John (and all the others who have helped Paddy‘s family and whose names I do not know) for helping to ensure Paddy‘s work has been preserved for posterity.

COW2011: The programmes are ready for posting

I managed to get the COW2011 programmes printed at a small print shop near where I work as I did not have enough time to get to the printers I normally use to print THE NUGGET. They managed to print and collate the fifty copies I needed by the end of the day … but for some reason they were unable to staple them in the centre of the fold. The reason they gave was that the automatic stapler on the collator had stopped working. They offered to hold on to the programmes until they could be stapled – but were unable to give me any idea when that would be – or to reduce the bill. As time is of the essence, I chose the latter option, so I must apologise in advance to COW attendees for the fact that their copy of the COW programme is not stapled together.

The envelopes are ready, and the COW programmes will be in them and in the post early tomorrow morning, which should mean that they are with COW attendees by the weekend.

Preparing for COW

In two weeks time, COW2011 will be over … so I have already started to get together the stuff I need for my sessions.

After a discussion with Tim Gow, we decided not to try to fight a full-scale FUNNY LITTLE WARS battle as neither of us has actually used the rules as yet. Instead we intend to fight a small skirmish with each side fielding one or two regiments of Infantry, a gun, and possibly a few cavalry. Once we have got a firm grasp of the rules, we can then plan to fight a full-scale battle later in the year.

As for my PORTABLE WARGAME session … well I have printed off copies of the rules (but not the rules summary sheet) for the attendees, and I have begun sort out the terrain that I will be using. The figures need to be sorted into ‘sides’ and put into storage boxes for the journey, and I will need to ‘make’ some activation dice. These will be made by sticking coloured and numbered ‘dots’ on the faces of surplus Heroscape™ dice … of which I have quite a number. All that will then need to be done is for me to create the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that I will use to introduce attendees to the rules.

Tomorrow I hope to get the COW programme printed, and once that is done I shall post it out to attendees. The envelopes are already labelled and have postage stamps on them, so it should only take few minutes for me to put the programmes in the envelopes and get them in the post on Tuesday morning.

Whilst I was printing the labels for the envelopes, I also printed off the labels that will be stuck onto each attendee’s badge. These will be issued as attendees arrive at COW, and serve both to help new attendees to recognize each other (there are a few ‘virgin’ conference goers this year), and as a check on who has or has not arrived by the start of the conference.

The portable wargame: Yet another enthusiast joins the ranks … and brings a great idea with him!

As I wrote in my reply to a comment made about my recent blog entry entitled MY ‘GUIDING PRINCIPLES’ FOR WRITING WARGAMES RULES, any set of wargames rules must be written so that anyone can read them and fight a battle with them without having recourse to asking the author questions about what this or that means.

Well I must have got my PORTABLE WARGAME rules up to a reasonable standard as they appear to have yet another ‘enthusiast’. I refer – of course – to Dr Vesuvius, whose blog has an excellent report of a small battle fought using the rules.

He also used Heroscape™ hexed terrain for his battle, and came up with one idea that I really liked and that I am going to copy; he used different coloured hexes (as supplied with the game) to delineate woods. Now in the rules it states that ‘The placement of a piece of terrain in a hex indicates that entire hex is filled by that type of terrain (e.g. a tree in a hex indicates that the entire hex is wooded; a building in a hex indicates that the entire hex is a built-up area)‘, but by using Dr Vesuvius‘ idea it means that one needs fewer trees or buildings to indicate woods or built-up areas and – more importantly – it means that there is more room in the hexes for the troops. Two problems solved at once!

Thank you Dr Vesuvius for both your excellent battle report and the terrain idea!

It once was lost … but now is found …

Sorting through the cupboard where I store all the Wargame Developments and Conference of Wargamers stuff, I came across a thin plastic file box that I thought that I had lost. It contained my copy of THE SUN NEVER SETS, a Colonial campaign system devised by Dave Waxtel and Barry Gray and later expanded by Patrick R Wilson.

I bought my copy from ‘The Way It Was’ (the company run by Larry Brom’s daughter, Lori, and which now sells its wargames rules through its ‘Sergeants 3’ website) back in 2002. I read it with great interest, stored for later reference … and then ‘lost’ it when everything was rearranged after my wife and I had a loft conversion/extension built on our house.

The cover describes THE SUN NEVER SETS as ‘being in the main a practical campaign system for the Colonial wars of the British Empire, 1860-1885‘ … and it is.

My copy contains:

  • A 78-page, spiral bound set of campaign rules and notes
  • A chart that outlines the distances by sea in days from various ports to other ports, on the back of which is a breakdown of the Sequence of Play
  • A master sheet for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to record the Empire’s monthly financial accounts/A month-by-month record of the Prime Minister’s political level record
  • The Imperial General Staff’s monthly war diary/Parliamentary Secretary’s record of votes in Parliament
  • A set of 40 political event cards
  • A set of unit and other counters for use with the campaign maps
  • A campaign map of India
  • A campaign map of the sea routes from Great Britain to Africa, Indian, China, and Australia (and all points in between)
  • A campaign map of Burma and India’s North East frontier
  • A campaign map of Egypt, the Sudan, and Abyssinia
  • A campaign map of the North Island of New Zealand
  • A campaign map of South Africa
  • A campaign map of China
  • A campaign map of Ashantiland
  • A campaign map of Borneo

All the maps are printed in colour, as are the political event cards.

One day – when I have enough potential players – I might like to run a campaign using THE SUN NEVER SETS; in the meantime, I am going to make sure that it does not get ‘lost’ again!

COW2011: Programme and timetable

Tim Gow, the co-organiser of COW2011, has emailed me the programme and timetable of events for the forthcoming COW2011.

I will be taking both to the printers as soon as I can, but in the meantime blog readers can peruse them by visiting the Wargame Developments website and following the links from the Conference of Wargamers webpage.

COW2011: More sessions!

COW2011 (the 2011 annual Conference of Wargamers) starts in exactly two weeks time, and the list of proposed session continues to grow. Some additions have now been published by Tim Gow, my fellow conference co-ordinator, on his blog. I already had a major dilemma about what sessions to choose to attend, and these additions have not helped matters. Still, it is better to have lots of choice rather than having to scramble around looking for things to do … not that that has happened very often in the past!

Deadlines … and how to miss them!

It is 5.00pm and I am sat at my desk at work waiting for the final pieces of coursework to be handed in by my students. The deadline was 4.00pm … but two of them still have a small but essential piece of work to finish off and hand in.

The dilemma that I had was a simple one; should I leave, which meant that they would not have achieved their Diplomas and would only receive a Certificate, or should I stay and pretend that the clock had stopped at 3.59pm. As you will gather, after much heart-searching I decided to take the latter course of action.

Why? Is it because I am going soft in my old age (probably ‘Yes!’) or is it because do I not want to end my career with the taint of failure, albeit not mine but the students? In truth I don’t know, but … they have just walked in with the completed work … and it was worth waiting for.

It is now 5.15pm. The work is marked. The job is done. The course is over. I can now go home and rest.