Sitting and waiting … and finding things to do

My wife and I are currently in a state of limbo. Until the Coroner is happy with the cause of death, my father-in-law’s body cannot be released … and until that happens we cannot make any arrangements for the funeral, nor can we begin sorting out his finances and his estate. The post mortem should take place tomorrow, and assuming that the Coroner is satisfied with the results, we came begin making arrangements on Thursday. We have managed to sort out my father-in-law’s ‘filing system’, and the documents are now neatly filed in date order in a number of properly labelled files that cover our dining table.

At present I have some spare time available to devote to wargame-related activity, and so far I have managed to finish revising my imagi-world map. The next thing I want to tackle is the background information that will go with the map, and with luck that should be finished later today or a some point tomorrow. After that I want to think about the number of wargame figures that I need to buy and paint so that I can begin using my imagi-world.

As I want my figures to be painted in the style of ‘toy soldiers’ (i.e. blocks of colour, no shading, and gloss varnished) I want to use figures that are fairly simple. In the old days my choice would have had to have been Peter Laing figures, but these are no longer available and I have to look for suitable substitutes. I suspect that I am going to end up using a mixture of Essex Miniatures, Irregular Miniatures, and Warrior Miniatures, but I am also considering Miniature Figurines figures as well. I have toyed with using larger scale figures than 15mm-scale (20mm, 28mm, 30mm, 42mm, and even 54mm-scale figures have all been given serious thought) but considerations of cost, convenience, and storage have influenced my thinking to date. That said, the Irregular Miniatures 42mm figures are exactly the right style for the sort of battles that I want to fight and I am finding them to be a very tempting alternative to 15mm.

The Imagi-world of 1891 … now has some named seas and oceans

I have now finished naming the various seas and oceans on my imagi-world map, and the results are shown below:

I may need to make a few additions and changes, but I doubt if these will be very drastic.

I have still a few more entries to write before the background information about each of the countries of my imagi-world of 1891 will be completed, and I hope to finish this task as soon as events allow.

The Imagi-world of 1891 … needs named seas and oceans

I have made very little progress on this particular project over recent days, but one thing that I have realised is that the seas and oceans on my map of the imagi-world are unnamed.

Rather than use a mixture of both real and imaginary names, I have decided to use nothing but imaginary ones that reflect the countries that are bordered by those seas and oceans. For example, some of the names I plan to use include the Chindian Ocean, the Chitan Sea, and the Sea of Jippon.

The Wargaming Pioneers

During a break from helping my wife to sort out her father’s affairs and selling my father’s house I managed to read the latest addition to John Curry‘s History of Wargaming Project, THE WARGAMING PIONEERS INCLUDING LITTLE WARS BY H.G.WELLS, THE WAR GAME FOR BOY SCOUTS AND THE WAR GAME BY CAPTAIN SACHS 1898 – 1940: EARLY WARGAMES VOL. 1.

That may seem like a very long title, but the book contains so much of interest that anything shorter would not do the contents justice!

The one thing that struck me as I read through the book (and I came to this conclusion before reading Arthur Harman’s excellent appendix to the book in which he compares the various rules contained therein) was the fact that H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS was not the first book of wargames rules but that it was probably the most well known in a series of sets of rules that were published in and around the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. LITTLE WARS is the antecedent of the LIDDELL HART WAR GAME (1935) and CAPTAIN SACHS’ WAR GAME (1940) but it also appears to be the descendant of THE GREAT WAR GAME (1908).

Of particular interest to me was the inclusion of:

  • THE WAR GAME FOR BOY SCOUTS (1910) because of it is a more strategic/grand tactical game than the others,
  • SHAMBATTLE (1929) because of some of its very interesting game mechanisms, and
  • MECHANIX ARTILLERY DUEL (1932) because it features exploding ships, forts, and tanks (!) and appears to be a version of the classic game of BATTLESHIPS but with actual guns being fired over a screen at unseen targets.

I thoroughly recommend this book to any wargamer with an interest in the history of their hobby, and in particular to anyone who has an interest in both H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS (the book contains the full text of the original version) and its most recent development, FUNNY LITTLE WARS by Paul Wright.

PS. I do get a passing mention in the book – and took the cover photograph as well – but I would have recommended it anyway!

Fenwick Travers is no Harry Flashman but …

I have just finished reading the third and final volume of the Fenwick Travers trilogy, FENWICK TRAVERS AND THE PANAMA CANAL.

In some ways this is the best of the three books as it covers the events of the successful Panamanian revolt against Colombia. Reading the book gave me lots of ideas for possible scenarios that would allow me to include steam railways, gunboats, Marines, South American revolutionaries, Amerindians, beautiful female spies, and South American military units! The book even includes some simple maps that would be ideal for a min-campaign.

The author of the Fenwick Travers books only wrote three volumes, but it would appear that he expected to write more. At the end of this book Fenwick Travers is just about to set off for Japan … and it is set only a few years before the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War so one imagines that Fenwick was about to get himself involved in that war as well.

I have been to … Holkham Hall

As I wrote in a recent blog entry, my wife and I spent an all too short time recently in North West Norfolk. We stayed in one of our favourite hotels, the ‘Le Strange Arms Hotel’, Old Hunstanton.

We have been going there for regular long weekends away for many years, and have found the ambience, the location, and the food very reviving, especially whenever our spirits have been flagging and our batteries have been in need of recharging.

For years we have driven past the gates of Holkham Hall, but have never ventured in. This time we decided to take the plunge and pay a proper visit to the Hall … and we are very pleased that we did.

Holkham Hall was built by Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, and it is located near the north coast of Norfolk. It is built of brick and is an excellent example of the Palladian style of architecture. It was designed by William Kent and built between 1734 and 1764.

Holkham Hall’s owners – the Coke family – are responsible for a well-known sartorial ‘invention’, the ‘Billycock (or Billy Coke) Hat’. This is probably better known as the ‘Bowler’. The design came about because the nephew of the Earl of Leicester – William Coke – asked the hatters Lock & Company of St James’s to make a tight-fitting, low-crowned hard felt hat that estate workers – particularly the gamekeepers – could wear. Lock & Company subcontracted the manufacture of the hats to hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler – who later sold the design under their own name – hence the two names for the single style of hat. During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early half of the twentieth century the hat became the headwear of choice for junior Civil Servants, office workers, and tradesmen.

Amongst the attractions visitors can visit at Holkham Hall is the ‘Bygones Museum’. This includes an extensive collection of old vehicles …

… and steam-powered machinery …

… that is displayed in part of the Hall’s stable block.

Amongst the vehicles on display was a steam-powered cart …

… and a fire engine that was a Leyland chassis fitted with bodywork supplied by the Merryweather & Co. of Greenwich, London.

The Hall has a magnificent lake nearby …

… and an obelisk.

Unusually, the front of the Hall is guarded by statues of both a lion …

… and a lioness.

The Hall is built of yellow stock bricks, and unlike most other brick-built houses of its era, these have been left unrendered. Because of the lack of air pollution the bricks are still very clean and as a result the building does not appear to be as old as it actually is.

The entrance hall is magnificent. It is lined in marble and has a staircase that leads up to the first pillared floor.

The ceiling is also a sight to behold, and the whole effect very impressive.

Incidentally, Holkham Hall – and the pillared gallery above the entrance in particular – are featured in Alan Hunter’s 1957 crime novel, LANDED GENTLY.

The interior of the Hall is well worth seeing. During our visit we saw:

We did not have time to walk around the 3,000 acre park, but in addition to the ‘Bygones Museum’ and the Hall itself we did manage to visit the ‘History of Farming’ exhibition, the gift shop, and the café. We felt that Holkham Hall was well worth visiting and we are very pleased that we finally went there.


My wife and I would like to thank all of you who took the time to send us messages of support and condolence after the death of my father-in-law. It has helped to raise our spirits and enable us to keep going.

Thank you all very much.

A death in the family

My father-in-law died this morning.

My wife and I saw him last Friday when we took him to have another look at the flat we were in the process of buying for him. He had had a change of mind about the move earlier in the week, but when he saw the flat again he loved it, and was looking forward to moving in as soon as possible. When we returned home we left him in a very happy frame of mind, and he was already thinking about what he wanted to take with him from his existing home when he moved.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I had decided that we needed a break to recharge our batteries, and we were lucky enough to be able book two nights in one of our favourite hotels – the ‘Le Strange Arms Hotel’, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk – starting on Sunday. We had a pleasant drive up from London, stopped off in King’s Lynn for a light lunch, and arrived at the hotel in time for afternoon tea. By chance we were able to meet some old friends who were at the hotel for Sunday lunch, and we had a long and pleasant chat with them before we had to get ready for dinner.

On Monday morning we went to Holkham Hall … and I will write a special blog entry about our visit sometime in the near future. We then went on the Fakenham to visit a famous chocolate factory shop, and after that we drove to King’s Lynn and thence to Old Hunstanton. We had only just returned to the hotel when we received a telephone call from a friend of my father-in-law telling us that my father-in-law had fallen over and had been taken to hospital. We contacted the hospital immediately, and we were informed that my father-in-law had been found lying on the floor of his bedroom, and that he was dehydrated and may have injured his spine. We were told that he was as comfortable as could be expected and that we could visit him next day.

(We later discovered that he had been lying on the bedroom floor for at least 36 hours … and probably for as long as 48 hours.)

We immediately packed out bags and checked out of the hotel. The drive home was very unpleasant because high winds and torrential rain, and it took us nearly three hours top drive the one hundred or so miles. We telephone the hospital again when we reached home, and were told that my father-in-law was resting and that they were attempting to rehydrate him.

On Tuesday morning we went to see my father-in-law. We drove to the hospital in Canterbury, Kent via his home in Herne Bay, collecting some items that we thought he might need during his stay in hospital. He was asleep when we arrived, and appeared to be responding to the treatment he was being given. We waited until he had been seen by the doctors who were overseeing his case, and they made us aware of the problems that they were facing. It appeared that during the time he spent lying on the floor unable to move, he had accumulated fluid in his lungs. The process of rehydrating him was causing a further build-up of fluid, and that this was placing an increased burden on his heart and lungs. However, if he was not rehydrated, his kidneys and heart might fail. The treatment was a delicate balance between the two, and his survival would depend upon getting that balance right. They also told us that he would be asleep for the rest of the night, and that we should go home.

We drove back to London, and had just sat down when the hospital telephoned to inform us that my father-in-law’s condition had worsened. We immediately packed an overnight bag and drove back to Canterbury. We stayed at his bedside until past 1.00am this morning, waiting to see if there was any improvement. There was not … but his condition did not appear to be getting any worse either. We were by now both so tired that we could hardly stay awake, and so we set off to try to find a hotel that had beds available. We finally found one in Whitstable, and by 2.00am we were asleep.

We were awoken at 6.30am by a telephone call from the hospital. My father-in-law’s condition had suddenly deteriorated and they advised us to get there as quickly as possible. We did so, but unfortunately he had died almost as soon as they had telephoned us.

We have spent the rest of the day trying to sort out what to do next. Because of the circumstances of my father-in-law’s death, the Coroner has decided that there will have to be an inquest. Until that has met and a decision as to the cause of death has been determined, the funeral cannot take place. My wife and I have a lot to do over the coming few weeks, and I suspect that all my wargaming is going to have to be placed on hold until after the funeral.

I know that many of my regular blog readers will send my wife and I messages of sympathy. Please do not be offended if I do not reply to each of them personally, but I would like to thank you in advance for your kind thoughts and support.

The Imagi-world of 1891 … is almost complete

I have almost finished writing the background information about each of the countries of my imagi-world of 1891, and I hope to finish this task by the middle of next week.

I made some basic assumptions when I began. These were that:

  • The imagi-world’s population, whilst large, is smaller than the real population of the world in 1891
  • There are fewer countries in the imagi-world of 1891 that there were in the real world
  • The ‘Scramble for Africa’ is coming to it end in 1891 and not still in full flood
  • The Fezian (i.e. Turkish Ottoman) Empire still has nominal control over a larger area than it actually had in 1891
  • The Federated States of America (i.e. the USA) has not undergone a civil war in the middle of the century, that slavery was abolished earlier in the century, and that the numerous Amerindian tribes have been integrated rather than subjugated
  • Britannic Chindia (i.e. British India) is a confederation of allied native states that enjoy Britannic protection and accept Britannic overlordship in exchange for that protection and being allowed to run their own internal affairs

I have also made other assumptions as the work has progressed, but these were the main ones I started with.

I have found doing this task to be a very interesting one, as it allowed me to turn some historical possibilities into realities. I had created imagi-nations before, but not anything larger. This is a much bigger project (hence the amount of time and effort it has so far taken!), but it does give me a background that has lots of potential for me – and others – to exploit over the foreseeable future.

iOS5 … and the wasted evening

Earlier this evening I attempted to do my regular iPad to PC ‘sync’ … only to find that I could not do so until I had installed the new operating system – iOS5 – onto my iPad.

Now this sounds simple … but it took me five attempts to get the program to download from the Apple website before I could then install it on my iPad. The installation process backed up all my existing apps and settings (which took some time), then installed the new operating system (which took some more time), and then reloaded all the apps and settings (which took even more time). By the time I had finished all of these processes it had taken me upwards of two and a half hours to complete what should have been a simple and straightforward task.

And what does this new operating system allow me to do? It allows me to connect my devices (iPhone, IPad, PC etc.) wirelessly via iCloud. This will automatically update my iPad when I install a new app on my iPhone or buy something from the iTunes store … which is great except that my iPhone is a simple 3G model that won’t interact with iCloud!

Things like this annoy me because it looks like they are adding chrome just because they can and not because we need it.