Sunday 31 August 2008

Gentlemen, consider Smykes!

It was my intention to maintain a dignified silence in the face of the salacious speculation regarding the true domicile of Mr Asquith. However yesterday I received a phone call which has changed matters somewhat.

It was from the head gardener Smykes, now this dear old man has never in eight decades mastered the use of telephonic apparatus. However he had walked the twelve miles to the local post office where the post mistress assisted him to contact me.

"Sur, I've 'eard the Young Master baint be liven at the Towers no more. They say it ain't really 'is. What shall 'appen to the missus and I? It's awful hard to lose our cottage at our age, and me as served the family, man and boy these many years."

the estate cottages
Well I must confess a manly tear rose to my eye. It was with shaking voice that I was able to reassure the dear old man.

"Well, bless my soul," he sighed when finally I explained the ways of the modern world to him. " Thank the lord that old Mr Asquith baint be ere to see it. E'd larn they buggers." he added with touch of asperity.

Old Mr Asquith, the family likeness is remarkable.

As a result I have resolved not to use any more of my private photo collection of Asquith Towers. Little did I think when I attempted to raise the tone of this blog of the tragic consequences so narrowly averted. Nevertheless I have added some final photos to this post that should put the issue beyond any shade of doubt!

The family church where Asquiths have found their final resting place since the 14C. The curious may find Mr Asquith reading the lesson the first Sunday of each month.

And to those doubters out there, (some of whom should know well the lavish lifestyle that attends editing a wargames magazine!) I say, please pause to consider the feelings of those whose lives are led within the shadows of Asquith Towers.

Thursday 28 August 2008

The modest contentment of Stuart Asquith

The 'scullery' at Asquith Towers

One of my favourite blogs
recently ended a post with a quotation from Horace, frankly I was impressed.

It strikes me that I learnt something in my youth that would sum up this entry very well. Something about some bod who had conquered the world staring with dissatisfaction at the vasty Afric plain or such. Alexander or maybe Cortez. Anyway it remains firmly not on the tip of my tongue so it will have to be prose once more.

Many of us are now veterans of many a wargames campaign, we have surveyed ranked trestle tables packed with figures, we have slept on the floors of village halls and Scout huts across the land. We have painted, with varying degrees of satisfaction, figures from Alberken to Zvesda. Now as we reach our more mature years how do we maintain our enthusiasm for painting even more units and armies?

Stuart Asquith, smiled and refilled my whisky tumbler as I explained my worries to him. Sinking back in his deep leather chair and surrounded by the accumulated volumes of a lifetime of military reading he explained his philosophy.

There came a point in his life when he got rid of his armies, though not figures and units that had sentimental associations, and for a time was purely a collector. Eventually he came to a realisation that he was not disillusioned with wargaming as such, merely with the way he was embracing it.
Getting suddenly to his feet he strode to the library door and called out. A few minutes later he reappeared with the butler helping him carry several oak boxes.
These were chosen at random he explained. The boxes were similar to those that would have been used to contain formal canteens of cutlery. about 2'x 11/2' they were beautifully stained and gleaned with brass fittings.

"Every time I have a new project I get a local craftsman to knock up a couple of these",he explained. "They form a limit to the project, I work out exactly what I can do within these limits and how to get the most enjoyment from it."

He lifted the lids on a few of the boxes and what treasure nestled in the green baize interiors. A box of exquisitely painted 30mm figures formed a small but perfectly represented 18C army. 54mm britains naval brigade dragged their little lead cannon across the veldt. My favourite though were two boxes that had Russian and Allied 20mm figures from the Crimean. Mini fig S range, Douglas, and Stadden, every piece a collecters item.

Stuart's normal table, complete with dice boxes laid out for play. Note the comfortable chairs and good lighting. Sensible concessions to advancing years.

"At our age size isn't as important any longer." He said picking up a new bottle of Islay malt from the side table. " Look, I'll prove it to you. The butler wants to get away early tonight so rather than have him set up the billiard table for a game we will set out on the scullery table and I bet you we will have just as good a game."

( I must say that is typical of the man, that he not only knows all the staff by name, but insists on them having at least one half day off a week to visit their families.)

So after dinner that evening we made our way down to the old servants hall, where Stuart has set himself up a very comfortable breakfast room. On the table had been laid out that old classic Blasthof bridge.

The story of that game must wait for another post however.

Readers wishing to know more of Stuarts 'game in a box' should read his full account of it in Battlegames magazine.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Summer Reading

A busy couple of weeks have gone past since the last entry. Initially a rush at the painting table as I painted figures for a manufacturer to display on their new trade stand at the Woolwich show. Barely finished in time and then an email from Battlegames reminding me that the deadline for my column was on hand. Finally I managed to finish a nice sized unit of 32 Les Higgins Civil War Cavalry that had been on order from another customer for some months.

All in all, I felt ready for a little light reading.

I am sure that most UK readers will be familiar with the Naval and Military Press. They have been sending out their newspaper sized catalogues for several years now. Their most recent advertised 20% off all stock including sales items till 26 August.

An hours browsing produced a long list and a further hour managed to reduce it down to five titles. Five books plus postage came to a very reasonable £30. I ordered two days ago and they arrived this morning. I have no connection with the company but I would recommend anyone interested to take a look at the website before the 26th of this month.

I picked up a couple of books relating to the BEF,I can see that the reissue of the vickers light tank kit by Airfix will see me covered in polystyrene glue before the years end.

Next a couple for the Victorian shelves in the library. I don't know how I have avoided buying Ian Knights excellent history of the Zulu war for so long but at £3.95 that had to be put right. I also picked up a collection of letters from the Crimean War; even the best history never has the 'feel' of reading a contemporary narrative.

The last book I chose was from Naval and Military's own list of reprints.They really have a wide variety of subjects in paperback and at prices we could only dream of ten years ago.

I bought Walter Money's history of the battle of Newbury. OK I have the excellent
Forlorn Hope guide to the battle and the latest book by Barrett. Nevertheless it has been a very hard to find volume and a splendid example of early military history besides at £8 how far wrong can you go?

Most of these books are paperback, which is fine for the book which is taken down from the shelf and read occasionally. I find that my Napoleonic books really need to hardback to stand up to the useage they recieve.

So its a large mug of Cocoa and an early nights reading for me. Tomorrow I will disclose the secret of Stuart Asquith's box system.

Saturday 2 August 2008

Taking Tea At Asquith Towers

The murmuring of bees in the lavender hedge, mingled with the gentle chinking of bone china as afternoon tea was cleared from the terrace overlooking the orchard. The ladies removed the last crumbs of honey scones and dregs of Earl Grey and left the garden to Stuart Asquith and myself.

Stuart delved in his waistcoat pocket and emerged with a 25mm cavalry figure.
"This was given me by Peter Gilder, after our game at Northern Militaire back in '79."

With trembling hands I took the Hinchcliffe personality figure of Prince Rupert. I last saw Peter Gilders painting back in the display cases that lined the walls of the Hinchliffe shop. Of course I have seen lots of photos of his figures since then, but photographs do not seem to convey the delicacy of his style.

In the Hinchliffe handbook he advocated using a thinned mix of humbrol enamel leather to stain flesh. What surprised me as I handled the Prince Rupert was the degree to which stains had been used. All of the main areas of the figure had been painted with thin washes and then a little detail had been added and edges defined with a very fine black line.

Most present days wargamers will think of Humbrol enamel as a thick gloop of a paint which is used in a relatively unsophisticated way to block in big areas. In fact it could be used on the palette and doctored with white spirit and oil to achieve some very nice effects. I use the past tense because the last few tins of Humbrol that I have bought have been absolutely dreadful, no use to anyone.

Prince Rupert absolutely glowed as the gloss varnish enhanced the jewel like quality of the painting. Stuart took it back and replaced it carefully in his pocket.

"If you care for such things," he smiled, "perhaps you would stroll back up to my study. Its possible that I have one or two things in the display cabinet you might like to glance at before dinner."

to be continued......

This photo is taken from the wonderful 'Battles of the American Revolution' by Curt Johnstone. It shows the Peter Gilder figures but only hints at the translucent painting style. I spent hours looking at these figures when they adorned the little shop in Meltham that was Hinchliffe's factory outlet. Next door to the Ferguson tractor garage if I recall correctly.