Friday, 30 August 2013

Books and Stuff

What I've Read this Week

I carried on with Pope Francis: Untying the Knots.

What I've Bought this Week...

A B Demaus (ed), Letters from HMS Britannia: William Lambert and the Late Victorian Navy - £2.99
Rudyard Kipling, A Fleet in Being: Notes of Two Trips with the Channel Squadron - £3.00
Rudyard Kipling, The Fringes of the Fleet - £3.00
Mark Mower, Zeppelin Over Suffolk: The Final Raid of L48 - £4.99

I'm particularly pleased with the Kiplings - the Fleet in Being is a 1898 [first?] edition with a nice cover picture by Norman Wilkinson (one of his earliest published works), and the Fringes of the Fleet is a 1916 edition (the third printing).

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Gods Smile on Me!

Before we get to what I'm talking about in the title, some important business...

Welcome to new followers.
Welcome guys!


Now, what's this about smiling gods?  Well it turns out that I'm a winner!  

As many of you know, the guys over at Canister & Grape have been having a competition to celebrate their 50K mark.  I was lucky enough to win this rather splendidly painted figure.

Lovely, eh?

I can't wait for him to arrive.  The Wife looked at him rather suspiciously and asked "What's SAGA?"

Secondly, James at the Gonzo History Project seems to have tired of the 'neat' formatting he was provided with by Wordpress.  He therefore announced that he would give prizes to the three best page submitted to him.  Luckily for me there were only three entries, so my cobbled together effort has earned a goodie bag.  See the entries here.
News from the Fourth Planet

It's been rather a long time since I posted about Mars.  Well, NASA has just released a rather nice series of pictures.

It's not, as someone claimed, a three-eyed Muppet.  Rather is the record of an solar incursion (an eclipse of the sun) by the moon Phobos taken by the Mars rover Curiosity.  I think it's rather awesome, but I'm a sucker for all things martian (and Martian!).  More information here.  

It highlights the odd coincidence that Earth is such a distance from the Sun and our Moon that both appear the same size - thus when we have eclipses the Moon sometimes matches the Sun's disc exactly.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Delayed Prize Draw (Yes, There are Prizes!)

If you can't remember why I'm having a prize draw, it's to celebrate the first anniversary of this blog and other momentous events.

How to Play

The rules are fairly standard.  It is a prize draw in which you can earn up to three entries.

  1. Enter by commenting on this post.  You don't have to commit yourself now to which prize you want, but I will find it interesting to know what prizes people are drawn to (if it's just the concept of Free Stuff, that's alright).
  2. You can earn another entry by being a follower of the blog - either existing or new.
  3. Another entry comes your way if you promote this draw (either on your own blog or elsewhere).  You'll have to let me know that you've done so via the comments.
The draw will be made on Sunday 8 September.  There will be three winners.

The Prizes
  • David Day, A Guide to Tolkien

  • Penguin Classics, Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources

  •  John Wacher, Roman Britain

  • D Mason & A Selwood, Right Up the Empire - Victorian illustrations with amusing (modern) captions.  This one's got a torn dust jacket (but it's free!)

  • Jules Stewart, The Khyber Rifles: From the British Raj to Al Qaeda

  • Patrick Abbott, The British Airship at War, 1914-1918

  • Geoffrey Bennett, The Battle of Jutland

  • Six postcards of Edward VII

  •  Six various royalty postcards  

Good luck everyone!

As this post is probably going to generate some traffic, I have no qualms in pointing out that I don't just give books away - I sell them too.  Go here to buy some!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Welcome, a Plug and a Fact

Ain't this a nice biscuit? Sadly, I've not had it, only been sent it on Facebook.

In all the fuss surrounding anniversaries, birthdays, etc, I've forgotten to welcome a new follower.  Hello to Millsy!  Millsy is one of those behind Canister & Grape, which as I mentioned the other day is celebrating its 50,000th hit with a giveaway.

The plug is for a blog that I've recently started following.  The Gonzo History Project is a very interesting view on matters historical (with a bias towards burial practices!) - a squint-eyed view.  Certainly worth the read, especially if you're interested in things archaeological.

Talking of history, it's time for a new feature <drum-roll> ...

What I Learnt Today...

The tag put on a hunting hawk's foot to indicate ownereship is called a vervel.  Norwich Castle Museum has a larger collection of medieval vervels than the British Museum.

These snippets came from a story on the BBC website about the vervel above, which was found by a metal detectorist and, quite properly, declared under the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The arms are those of Charles Brandon,  Duke of Suffolk, chum and brother-in-law of Henry VIII.  A coroner's inquest is forthcoming to determine ownership (which is the usual, and ancient, procedure under English law).

Booty Call!

Let's see what the title does for the ratings!

Thanks to everyone for the best wishes yesterday.  One of the best things about writing a blog is getting feedback.

Now what's this about booty?  Yesterday was a day for giving gifts in our house.  I'm not going to crow about what I was given, but I know the world is curious to know what The Wife got on our wedding anniversary.

No, not quite!  It was this... 

Now before you say anything, she really likes them!  Now she can do all those pesky soldering jobs!

We've each had a go with it and it's so good that I'm considering ordering another one for me (Aha! We knew it! you exclaim.).  In fact I wish I had found one before deciding to get varifocals - I'm saving my varifocal rant for late, but anyone whose ever had to get used to them knows what I mean.

I'm afraid I've forgotten whose blog I read a review of them on - please do own up and provide an url.  In the meantime, click on the Amazon ad below and check them out (as with my book posts, I get a pittance for every click - so far, I've earned £3.22 this year).

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Happy Blogday! (Cake and Prizes!)

Today is the first anniversary of the launch of this blog.

Some Retrospection

I signed up for blogging because I wanted to do something creative and at the time was in a position where I thought I might be loosing some practice at expressing myself (that sounds rather mid-life-crisisy, but it wasn't).

I've had a look at what I was doing last year.  My initial post still stands true - to be frank I didn't know what I was going to blog about, whether anyone would read it and how long I would stick with it.  I still don't have a theme. The surprising thing is that in the week between the launch and the end of Aug 2012, made no less than 20 posts (and in that week I got 122 hits).  Reading those posts now, they seem a better mix that those I've been posting lately.  There are quite a few 'I've just come across this, and isn't it cool?' posts alongside more prepared thought-out ones.  I may go back to that pattern - it's more fun.

By September, I thought I needed to create a timetable for posts.  It's just as well that I said then that I probably wouldn't be keeping to it, 'cos I haven't!  But a bit of discipline wouldn't be too bad a thing.  There's been a lack of substance lately...

This brings me to...


This is the 225th published post.

As of 9:05 on 24 Aug 2013, I have had 22,427 hits, which is a number I would have been amazed at a year ago.  If it hadn't been this anniversary today, I would have posted on yesterday's landmark of 22,222 hits!

As you can see, the busiest month was May 2013, with 3,359 hits.  I put that down to being added to the blog rolls of some high-traffic sites - thanks for following guys, I hope you're enjoying the ride!

The busiest day was 2 Jun 2012, when  I had 314 hits.  However, unless there's a huge Eastern European interest in hetrodox bishops of the Church of England, I suspect that this was the result of one of those strange Russian websites that direct traffic to random sites for some reason.  Judge for yourself whether Renn Dickson Hampden deserves his spot in the blog's top ten visited posts...  [It's about time we got another dead bishop.  Any requests?].

Popular Posts...




6 Dec 2012







My post on the Prince of Wales is twice as popular as any other one.  Why?   And why is that second one the post on the Duke and Duchess of Kent?


As well as being the blog's birthday, it's also my mother-in-law's birthday, my brother's and mine.  By a momentous coincidence, it's also my 13th Wedding Anniversary!  Yay!

To mark these great events, there will be a prize give-away (and yes, The Wife won the big prize, all those years ago).  Details are not certain at the time of writing, but will be announced within a day or so of this post going up.  Keep your eyes peeled!  I know of at least three giveaways going on at the moment, so I don't apologise if this one is postponed a little

And now over to you...

I've found blogging a rewarding experience and come across some really nice people through it.  There does seem to be a sense of community in the blogosphere (dreadful word).

If you have something you want to contribute, please do put it in the comments section.  It's nice to know whose out there and what you think.  If you like something, tell me so and (crowd-pleaser that I am), you might see more of it!  Don't feel left out because 'all the usual suspects' are chipping in.

This Week's Obits of Interest

Elmore Leonard (d. 20 Aug 2013)
Crime writer
Daily Telegraph obit 20 Aug 2013
Guardian obit 20 Aug 2013
Independent obit 20 Aug 2013

Prof David Rees (d. 16 Aug 2013)
Bletchley Park Codebreaker
Daily Telegraph obit 20 Aug 2013

Friday, 23 August 2013

Books and Stuff

What I've been reading this week...

I finished Patrick Moore, 80 Not Out: The Autobiography.

Not so much an autobiography as as series of reminiscences about his career: he famously covers the first 25 years of his life in three pages, and though he keeps mentioning the his RAF service and the fact his finacee was killed in the war, he doesn't tell us anything about it.  This perhaps is not such a bad thing - after all it's his career is of interest, and he is able to tell us something about all the major events in astronomy and space exploration in the second half of the C20th.

Where he does move away from the stars, I'm sorry to say that he comes across as a deeply odd, and quite immature, man.  Perhaps the hints he gives about his upbringing explain this: it would be nice to know more.  All in all, this made me feel like reading a proper biography of him!

A warning:  although he claims not to be right wing, his views on sexual and racial equality should not be read by the faint of heart!

Moore features on the Interesting Obits section of the blog.

I carried on reading Untying the Knots and started John Baxter, A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict.

What I bought this week...

Nothing!  Austerity hits the bookshelves.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

There Will Be Winners...

A couple of plugs* for prize draws tonight.

Canister & Grape is celebrating its 50,000 Hits and the Laughing Ferret has marked up 200,000.

David at the Ferret is giving extra points for pointing to archive posts of his.  I've linked before to his articulate description of living with depression, but today I'll link to somethings more up-beat: his EOTD AARs (including the comic adventures of the Spaceship Wombat) and, secondly, his painting of a squad from Dr Who's UNIT (mainly because of the brilliant recruitment video featuring my favorite character, the Brigadier).

I  myself will have some stunning news at the weekend about a giveaway.  If I can shift the severe blog-block I'm having at the moment, that is...

* See the Laughing Ferret's tirade against the use of the word 'Pimp' - a feeling that I know is shared by at least one other blogger.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Books and Stuff

What I've been reading this week...

I carried on with Patrick Moore, 80 No Out, and started Paul Vallely, Pope Francis: Untying the Knots.


What I've bought this week...

John Baxter, A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict - 50p
Stan Beckensall, Empire Halts Here: Viewing the Heart of Hadrian's Wall - 50p
Fiona Beckett, The Frugal Cook - 50p
George M Brunsden, Thorfinn The Mighty: The Ultimate Viking - 50p
Ialo Calvino, The Complete Cosmicomics - £1.00

And for free...

In advance of my birthday and after reading a good review, I told The Wife this was a suitable present (she always complains that people ask her and she doesn't know what to say).  For some reason she decided I'd earned a present before then!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Ferret Asks..

The Laughing Ferret has decided to start one of those viral questionnaires.  In a spirit of blind obedience, I hereby give you my answers.

Q.1 Dragons or Dinosaurs?

Now, this is a tricky one.

As I said the other day, Tolkien was a big influence on me quite early, and I followed up with Anne McCaffry, et al.  I've always liked dragons.  When I'm miserable and want a guff book to read, I go for 1950s sci-fi or a dragon book.

But 'everything is more fun with dinosaurs', isn't it?

In the early '90s I read a lot of the 'new paleontology'  (I've even did an extra-mural class at the University of Manchester on dinosaurs) and I've always been interested in the history of science in the C19th.  The dinosaur hunters have a lot of appeal.

In the end though, I'm going to plump for dragons.

Q.2 In a RPG would you rather be a Player or DM?

I haven't role-played since the early '80s (unless you count crappy training courses and a rather interesting week visiting a redhead studying at York University).  But, I think I'd rather be the DM.

Q.3 You have a Time Machine: you can only take a trip to the future or the past. Return or not is your choice.  Which direction and how far?
To visit.
I'd like to visit the peak of the Victorian Age, so I'd go to the 1880s.  Of course, I'd take sufficient goodies and knowledge of what was happening so as not to slum it.

Or perhaps I'd join Capt Cook's first voyage and hob-nob with him and Joseph Banks. Were Bligh and Vancouver on the first voyage?  I can't remember.

To live.

Perhaps I'd set myself up as a country squire in C18th England.  Somewhere nice like Cheshire or the Marches with a damn big Palladian house.

Portrait painting of a man with a brown coat and red waistcoat against a black background

Q.4 Favorite Online Comic

Never visit any.

Q.5  Of these Empires which do you feel is the BEST Empire and the WORST Empire? 
Roman, Mongol, Spanish, Russian, British, American. 

  1. British
  2. Roman
  3. American
  4. Spanish
  5. Russian
  6. Mongol
I wish I knew more about the Ottoman Empire.

Q.6 Who wins the fight?  Roman Gladiator or Samurai? 

This is based on pure ignorance, but I'd say Samurai.  There's more of an ethos behind it, and that wins every time in my opinion.

Here's a little of 13 Assassins - 

Q.7 Who wins the fight?  Darth Vader or Witch King? 

Witch King.  I was never convinced by Darth Vader.

Possibly because of this...

Q.8 Who wins the dogfight?   Starbuck in Colonial Vyper or Luke Skywalker in X-Wing?

Starbuck (because he was really good in Moby Dick). Who wins the battle of wits? Tyrion Lannister or Wesley? 

Whether the Methodists, or the guys from the Princes Bride or Star Trek: The Next Generation, it'd have to be Tyrion.

Because he's more cunning than a fox whose just been appointed to the Chair of Cunning at the University of Oxford.

Q.10 Money and Time no object, what movie or novel would you like to have the armies and terrain in miniature to recreate and expand on, and in what scale?

I've not seen the adaptation of Game of Thrones, so that's unspoiled in my mind (see my post the other day on Tolkien).  But of the two, I'd like to go with my own vision of Tolkien.

Perhaps Conan-Doyle's The Lost World (or one of the many pulp rip-offs) or HG Well's War of the Worlds.

Scale? It's tempting to say 1:1 (terracotta army anyone?), but you do say 'miniatures', so I'll go for 28mm.

Q.11. Human Beings die off. What species rises to take our place, becoming the next sentient species with a global civilization? 

My initial thought is 'Cats': but whose to say that they not the dominant species at the moment?

Pigs deserve a better break, but that's already hinted at in the Laughing Ferret's illustration.  I'll be a kiss-ass and say 'Ferrets!' (but I really mean pigs...)

Monday, 12 August 2013

One for Die-Hard LOTR Fans

I used to be a huge Tolkien fan, loving his work for the intricate world creation that lay behind it all.  I first read Lord of the Rings back when I was about 11 and re-read it several times in my early teens.  After that it subsided a little.  It's a phase I think one goes through (like PG Wodehouse).

I've just spent some time looking for a quotation that goes something like 'All boys at the age of 13 should think that Lord of Rings is the greatest book ever written: no-one should think that at the age of 20'.  I can't get it right or remember who wrote it (Salman Rushdie?).  After getting the "Oh fuck, not another elf!" quotation wrong the other week (it wasn't C.S. Lewis in the Eagle, it was Hugh Dyson at a reading in Lewis' rooms), I don't want to go out on a limb on this one.  Does anyone remember anything like that?

I love the BBC radio adaptation and was pleased when the films came out and initially enjoyed them.  Then I realised that they were erasing my mental vision of Middle Earth, which hadn't quite tallied with Jackson's.  I'm disappointed that his vision now seems to be ubiquitous.

One survivor of the Jacksonian take-over is Mithrial Miniatures, based with Prince August in Ireland.  They've been producing Tolkien figures and vignettes since 1987 (over 600) and are very nice, if a little pricy.

Isn't this nice?

The reason I'm posting this is that they have a loyalty club (I'm not a member!) and are having this rather cool deal at the moment:
Just a final reminder that the opportunity to take part in this unique event is almost over. The event ends at 16.00 BST on August 14th. This is your chance to have your portrait added to one of our miniatures. All you need to do is join the fellowship club, if you have not already, and take part in the August suggestion thread on our forum.

The basic rules for the suggestions are:
  1. You can only suggest ONE single figure.
  2. It has to be from our Mithril License so it has to be sourced from the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings books.
  3. It must be a generic figure from Middle-earth. So no named character.
  4. It must be from one of these three races: Human, Elf or Dwarf.
  5. If you choose a Dwarf, you MUST also have a beard in real life.
  6. It can be any profession that fits into the Middle-earth storyline.
  7. You must be a Fellowship member to take part.
It's silly, but I'm rather taken with Rule 5 and that's what's prompted this post.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A Day in Cromer

As I think I mentioned earlier in the week, my brother Jim and his daughter Charlotte have been staying with us.  Yesterday we had a nice day out in Cromer.  I'd only visited Cromer once before and, as it was September, pretty much everything was shut, so I was looking forward to this.

We started off at the Cromer Museum, part of the Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service.   Unlike the boy I knew as a youngster, Jim is now into museums and goes around reading the captions out to Charlotte in a didactic type manner.  This, and his little nature lectures while we're out walking, are quite amusing.  It's an odd twist!

The museum is in a row of fishermen's cottages just by the parish church.  Apparently, when the town Council bought them in 1967, a condition was that the residents could stay as long as they liked and were not to be disturbed: the museum therefore wasn't opened until 1978!

It's a small place in the buildings on the right there is a reconstructed Victorian cottage, material on a local photographer and on the history of tourism in the area.  What I really enjoyed however, was the geology rooms (probably because they reminded me so much of my time at  the Whitby Museum - even down to the free geology newspaper).

I thought it was all very well laid out and labeled.  There was even a little bit for the kiddies to excavate their own fossils.

A belemnite, but I think I could find another use for that model!

A major feature was the West Runton Elephant, something of a local celebrity, discovered in 1990.  It's the largest elephant skeleton discovered and the oldest from the UK.  We'd seen other parts of the skeleton earlier in the week in the Castle Museum in Norwich.

Cromer has a very fine parish church, but as that's not my brother's cup of tea, we skipped it.  The Wife and I will go back another time.  You can seem more about it on Simon Knott's fine Norfolk Churches site.  There are also a couple of decent second-hand bookshops in the town.  I only managed one of them and, despite a good stock didn't find anything in the time I was allowed. 

Jim and the lass preferred to spend time crabbing, so we joined the crowds on the pier.  We made the most basic error of seaside life: everything is dearer the closer you get to the sea.  We went into what claimed to be a cafe on the pier and I bought a stale cheese sandwich for almost £4.00 and wasn't even given a plate.

My own reason for wanting to visit Cromer was to see the Henry Blogg Museum.  I won't say much about the man himself (whose a personal hero of mine), as I've decided to do a post on him later in the week. 

The museum was opened in 2006 and has a very nice feel to it. 

The main exhibit is the lifeboat H F Bailey, which was one of three boats of that name that served as Cromer's lifeboat between 1923 to 1945 (this one served 1935-1945). 


 As well as Blogg, they include material on other Cromer lifeboatmen

Henry 'Shrimp' Davies

I didn't try a hat on - the bald guy is an RNLI bouncer.

As they say in the museum, "Their work goes on..."  While the kin were crabbing, I popped into the current RNLI boathouse on the pier and saw the Lester.  She was the first of the Tamar Class to enter service (in 2008).

The current Tamar Class lifeboat Lester

And of course, here's the plug.  Each year it costs over £140M to run the RNLI lifesaving service. For every £1 donated, 83p goes to the rescue service, and 17p is reinvested to generate more funds..  You can donate here.

A very good day out!

Friday, 9 August 2013

This Week's Interesting Obits

Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward (d. 4 Aug 2013)
Commander of the Falklands Task Force
BBC obit, 5 Aug 2013
Daily Telegraph obit, 5 Aug 2013
Independent obit, 5 Aug 2013
Guardian obit, 5Aug 2013

Senji Yamaguchi (d. 6 Jul 2013)
Survivor of the Nagasaki bombing and anti-nuclear activist
Telegraph obit, 9 Aug 2013

More over on the obits section of the blog.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Fruit of the Kickstarter

Ironically enough, just as J. Womack Esq has a rant at delays in crowd-funded projects, the fruit of one of the ones he mentions dropped through the postbox (thankfully not molested by the hound).

This was the 28mm Steampunk Inspired Heavy Weapons & Carriage Miniatures project by Curious Constructs that I signed up to in April.  The original estimate for delivery was June, which explains John's inclusion of it in his rant.

I pledged for "One complete Anti-Tank Laser, and one of each of the alternative weapon components which are unlocked" and this is what I've got:-

The alternative weapon components are a Gatling Cannon, an Auto-Cannon, a Tesla Cannon and a Rocket Launcher.  I haven't decided which configuration I shall use - I quite like the look or the original laser or the Tesla Cannon - the rest will go on the bits pile.  They might end up contributing to my glacial Aeronef project or The Wife's Steampunk airship.

Talking of Kickstarters, the Sikh Wars project I mentioned the other day reached its £3,000 funding goal with 18 days to go.  As a result, they have rejigged the stretch goals and are talking about different units.  Cynics will say that this is where mission creep sets in and Kickstarters  start going awry...

In other news Phyllion at the Diary of a Gaming Magpie has bought a very nice looking Nile steamer, which is something else that has been on my long-list.  At £20, perhaps I'll add it to my birthday or Christmas lists.  He's also reminded me of Houston's Naval Guns and Ship Fittings, which has a whole range of cheap goodies.

Dalek Day

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