Saturday, February 17, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Olympics, Dark Ages Kickstarter, Elephants, Wargods of Olympus and Zulus

Having finished my elephants last week, the next parts of the Victrix models to complete are the howdahs.  These will also need quivers for the javelins attaching and shields.  I haven't tried using Little Big Men transfers on domed shields before.  It is not going to be easy, I suspect!

I have started the base coat on the Zulus and put together another two to make a unit of 12 for The Men Who Would be King rules. I assembled these in front of the TV and looking at them, as I paint them, I should have done them in good light at my desk, as some of the arms don't look right.  Hopefully, this will not be too apparent when the shields are on.  Although it is a lovely, bright morning I'm not going to get much done today as it is my father-in-law's 90th birthday party.

Let's hope they don't all say 'Hoo! Hah!" before they charge into unrealistic man to man combat with swords.  The lady needs a few kebabs, I think

I have started some of the Wargods of Olympus figures and have found a Foundry Argonaut I am going to try to finish at the same time.  I am looking forward to the new BBC Troy drama, although political correctness has struck again, with a black Achilles. The costumes, as ever, have seen a costume designer go mad, once more, and ignore any historical evidence..  We know what Bronze Age (no iron spears either!) Mediterranean people wore; there  are plenty of paintings and pictures on pottery.  Stop making it look like an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.

I have always enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics more than the summer games, although I was disappointed in the choice of (stops typing to look up how to spell it) PyeongChang as host city.  Deep down, part of me thinks that the winter Olympics should be held in Europe (or North America at a pinch) not some weird place in Asia. It looks wrong and feels wrong.  However, having said that, the scenery in Korea (apart from a tragic lack of snow) is, in fact, not too bad. The drone Olympic rings at the opening ceremony were the second most impressive thing I have seen on TV this year after the  Falcon Heavy synchronised booster landing.   Beijing, where the 2022 games will be held is just wrong. I have been to Beijing and it just doesn't have that authentic alpine/nordic feel about it, just as there wasn't in Sochi.  A;so, hen are we going to have a winter Olympics in somewhere that doesn't need artificial snow?  It's a shame Oslo withdrew their bid, as that would have been perfect.

Being involved in infrastructure finance I occasionally get called in to provide some advice on Olympics: Beijing, and Vancouver spring to mind.  A few years ago, the Norwegians asked me in to help on a Winter Olympics bid for Tromso for 2014.  It never went anywhere but at least I did go up there for a bit, saw the Northern lights,  had a beer from the world's most northerly brewery, ate some whale (not by choice - we went to a wine bar and everything on the menus seemed to be unavailable except whale.  Suspicious that.  I also did not buy a sealskin tie)  and got given a 'games that never was' badge!  It's like my Toronto 2008 Olympic mountain biking venue tee shirt!

The BBC coverage in the first week unfortunately, seemed to be fixated on the tedious freestyle skiing and snowboarding events, which were introduced into the Winter Olympics to give Americans something to win.  They really are dull (apart from the pinball-like cross racing, where they knock each other over all the time), despite all the ghastly American style whooping and hollering, yet the BBC (they have ruined Ski Sunday by including all this millennial rubbish too). is showing hours of it.  This is  all because the Olympic authorities are desperate to try to get Americans to be even vaguely interested in the Winter Olympics, as they need their TV revenue.  I can't help think, too, that sports which require judges marks fly in the face of the citius, altius, fortius motto of the games.  Its not faster, higher, stronger and more twiddly.  Sorry, Torvill and Dean.  I enjoy watching ski-jumping but it should just be about how far you go not how elegant you look in flight. 

The other thing the coverage is stuffed with is curling, as we (or, rather, the Scots) have done quite well at this in the recent past but to say the pace is glacial is an understatement.  It was only worth watching when the luminous Anastasia Bryzgalova was on.  Anastasia competes under the Olympic flag, in this games, for the 'Russian athletes who haven't yet been caught taking drugs' team. Everyone is still calling them the Russian team though.  I see a Japanese has been caught taking a banned substance which is embarrassing for the hosts of the next summer Olympics,  No doubt someone will provide him with a tantō sword so that he does the right thing.  If not the Koreans will happily do it for him, I am sure.  I have been to Korea a number of times and they just hate the Japanese.  Maybe they spiked his drink.

I always stayed in the Westin Chosun in Seoul, as it had an Irish pub in the basement where you could get a Guinness for £10 and a pizza for £30.  It was worth it so that you didn't have to eat Korean food,which is quite the most disgusting cuisine I have ever encountered in 70 countries.  I once went to the food hall of the department store next door to the hotel and everything there looked and smelled like it had died at sea and been washed ashore three weeks later.  You couldn't even tell if it was animal, vegetable or fish.  Rancid, is the word for most Korean food, Don't even get me on Bosintang (dog soup), which you can really smell on those Koreans who eat it.

I need to unwrap it this weekend!

I had a big box from Grand Manner this week, as I ordered some African buildings to beat their annoying deadline (since passed) after which they will only sell ready painted items at twice the price of what they sold the bare resin for.  The shop is closed for everything at present.  I do like their stuff but I enjoy painting it, so, price apart, I don't want it painted by someone else in weird acrylic paint.  This is because I am a painter not a gamer! 

After banging on about how I can't paint 18mm any more, I bought into the War and Empire Dark Ages Kickstarter.  Has my new magic optivisor thingy given me ideas above my paint station?  It's all about the Battle of Hastings,of course. Although they have ludicrously big weapons they are lovely figures.  We shall see (literally) whether I can actually paint them!

Finally, after major Shed refurbishments, I am hoping I can get over to Eric the Shed's for an actual wargame next month.  I haven't played a game since our epic Zulu war games last January.  I always feel slightly embarrassed turning up with real wargamers as I can never remember the rules but that is largely because my limited brain capacity is full of other rubbish, like the workings of Export Credit Agencies at present and the El Salvador national infrastructure plan..  There is a trip to Nigeria lurking about at work at the moment but it has been postponed twice so I hope it goes away!

Les Filles d'Atlas

Today's wallpaper is this splendid painting by the French painter Paul Alexandre Alfred Le Roy (1860-1942).  Brought up in Russia, Le Roy moved to Paris when he was seventeen.  Like many orientalist painters of the time, he travelled to North Africa and Turkey and collected items for use in his paintings.  The title of the painting has two meanings, in that these huntresses are depicted in the Atlas mountains, which Le Roy painted on many occasions but they are also supposed to represent some of the Pleiades, the seven daughters of the titan Atlas, who were eventually transformed into stars by Zeus, to keep their father company as he supported the heavens on his shoulders.  He has depicted them in locally inspired North African tribal cloth rather than the more usual classical approach.

Today's music also has a North African aspect to it, in that it is Michael Nyman's The Upside Down Violin which features musicians from the Moroccan group Orquesta Andaluzi de Tetouan.  This appeared on his CD Michael Nyman Live in 1992.  I have over 12 hours worth of Nyman on my iTunes and my favourites include The Draughtsman's Contract, Water Dances and, especially, the propulsive MGV.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Painting progress and some Kickstarters

Good progress on the Carthaginian war elephants this week and the elephants are now, well on the way to being  finished. They need to be varnished and metal work done but it is cold and damp here today, unfortunately. The next jobs are the howdahs and crew.  The Little Big Men transfers look very good but do not precisely fit the model so some touching up was required.  I found then extremely fiddly One of the small one popped out of my fingers as I was bending it to remove the plastic coating and disappeared completely, lost somewhere in the clutter of my desk.  I am not looking forward to putting the very tiny transfers on the howdahs.  This weekend's job is to get those moved along.  

I have put bases on the Zulus and undercoated them (although somehow I have lost a shield bearing arm but I think I can fix that from the bits box).  I have also based a couple of the Wargods of Olympus figures (see below).  I am now also starting the tedious black bits on the 1864 Danish infantry.  Slowly but surely!  Any way this is what is going to see some attention this weekend.

I seem to have bought rather a lot of art books lately and desperately need shelf space which is currently being taken up by a lot of old wargames magazines.  In addition I have a pile of wargames magazines on the floor.  I have decided to be brutal and get rid of them.  I don't read them again, anyway and usually only find one or two articles in them worth keeping but as they do feature in my occasional Reading Wargames Magazines over Lunch (TM) posts, I won't stop buying them.  Instead, I am going through them and removing any articles I might want to read again and scanning them.  I can then file them in the relevant section of my computer and it makes it much more likely that I will refer to them in the future, as I will know exactly where they are.  So the first one I scanned last night was a Sudan scenario from this month's Miniature Wargames.

Back in 2014, I bought into the Crocodile Games Wargods of Olympus game Kickstarter.  Not because I was interested in the game but because I was interested in the figures for my Jason and the Argonauts project.  There were huge delays on this and I contacted them again recently and they told me they had my parcel all ready to go but they needed my address confirming. Well, they said they had sent me an e-mail asking for it but they hadn't. Anyway a massive box of stuff arrived yesterday and it looks very good.  A huge impact on the lead pile, though!

The figures come on slotta bases, which I hate so I will saw off most of the tab and will mount them on my favourite steel washers from Hurst in Cowes.  The gods and goddesses are a head taller than the rank and file figures, appropriately, and I will start with some of these I think.  In fact the goddess Artemis (above) and the god Dionysus seems as good a place to start as any.

Ewoks, anyone?

I have bought into a number of other Kickstarters and, on the whole, have found them a good experience.  A couple I regretted, like 18mm Forged in Battle ancients (although I like the look of their new Dark Ages Kickstarter) and Mars Attacks (I still have them all somewhere) but usually I find them a good way to pick up new ranges.  Sometimes I change my mind before the Kickstarter ends and cancel, as I did with The Drowned Earth (I really liked the miniatures but reckoned the scenery would cost a fortune).  This week I cancelled another Kickstarter, Freya's Wrath by Bad Squiddo games.  Now I should really want lady Vikings and I have the Foundry ones plus some other odd figures I picked up for a planned Frostgrave Force.  I decided that Frostgrave probably isn't for me, despite buying some figures, as the magic element seemed to make it far too complicated for me to understand and Eric the Shed didn't think much of it when he tried it.  The rules we play at the Shed are usually excellent so I trust his judgement on this. The real issue I had with the Freya's Wrath figures was that I decided that I didn't like the sculpts.   These are squat ladies and suffer from, not only big head syndrome, but also old style Gripping Beast fat calf syndrome (like their Early Imperial Romans).  Life is too short (especially for me) to paint average figures. Now, to be fair, you can't always tell proportions from photos, as the camera often distorts figures but I can always look at them, once they are out, at one of the shows. Instead I put my money into the new John Carter range (something I have wanted since I was about ten).

On Thursday I also pledged for Dark Fable's bunny girls Kickstarter.  I have no idea what these will be used for but they are sculpted by Brother Vinni and he does the best 28mm women on the planet. I have bought most of Dark Fable's Egyptian harem girls and even painted some, so I know these will be excellent and they were fully funded in a couple of days.  Fortunately, I have just the right reference book for the figures: Osprey's  Playboy Bunny Girls in Urban America 1960-1988

Well, no, of course, but I do have this in my extensive Playboy library so that will help with research, enormously.  I did once have a notion to do a (perhaps) Black Ops style fight in the sort of nightclub you used to get in Alias, using the excellent Sally 4th Terra-Block bar.  Now I could build a miniature Playboy club! Hmm. 

Winterhalter - Florinda (1852)

Talking of scantily clad ladies, today's wallpaper is Florinda by Queen Victoria's favourite painter Franx Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873).  I saw this painting in Osborne House on the Isle of Wight this summer and it featured in the most recent episode of BBC4's enjoyable series Art, Passion and Power: the Story of the Royal Collection.  At the time, this would have been something of a daring painting for a woman to purchase and a rather surprising birthday present, as it was, from Queen Victoria to Prince Albert. It must have been a favourite of both as they had it hanging over their adjoining desks in the Queen's Sitting Room in Osborne House, where it remains to this day.  In her diaries, Victoria bemoaned the fact that it couldn't be a secret gift (perhaps she was conscious of its  perceived raciness as a gift from the monarch) as it had to appear in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition that year.  Likewise it looked like Winterhalter hadn't expected it to sell quite so quickly as he had to rapidly paint a copy (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) for the Paris Salon the following year.

Bernardo Blanco -King Rodrigo before his defeat by the Moors at the battle of Guadalete in 711 (1871)

The subject is based on an old Spanish/Portuguese/Arab story.  Florinda was the daughter (or wife, depending on the version of the story) of Count Julian governor of Cueta for the Visigothic King Rodrigo in the 8th century.    Illustrated in Winterhalter's painting is one version, where King Rodrigo (just visible in the bushes at the far left) spies on Florinda and her lady companions as they prepare to bathe in the River Tajo, near Toledo castle. Instantly falling in lust (not surprisingly given, Winterhalter's lustrous treatment of flesh) Kind Rodrigo either seduced her and she became his lover or he abducted and raped her ('falls violently in love' as the Royal Collection euphemistically calls it).  Some versions of the story have Florinda as the seducer, however. Whatever, her father/husband Julian is none too pleased so colludes with the leader of the Ummayad Caliphate, Musa Ibn Nusayr, then running riot in North Africa, to invade Spain and kick out King Rodrigo and the Visigoths. This of course they did, leading to the death of King Rodrigo at the battle of Guadalete, centuries of Moorish conquest, flamenco music, a heroic crusade to oust the Moors, a Hollywood epic feature film with a wonderful soundtrack by Miklós Rózsa and a Warhammer Ancient Battles supplement.  That's a lot of stuff caused by one naked woman. In some versions of the legend, despite the rocky start to their relationship, Florinda, distraught at the death of her lover Rodrigo, commits suicide by jumping into the river where she was first spied upon by the King.  Her spirit, embarrassed at the terrible fate she had caused to befall Spain, would haunt the area ever after, especially if you have consumed too much Manchego and La Mancha wine, no doubt.

Winterhalter - Leonilla, Princess Sayn Wittgenstein (1843)

It was a popular story in the mid-nineteenth century (less so now) and indeed Queen Victoria, with Albert, had attended the world premier of the opera by Swiss composer Sigismond Thalberg, Florinda, ou Les Maures en Espagne, the year before she bought the painting, so was well aware of the legend.  The bodies in Winterhalter's painting would have been professional models but many of the faces were that of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn Wittgenstein, as Queen Victoria noted in her diaries. The Russian Princess Wittgenstein had been painted by Winterhalter in Paris in 1843 in a remarkably sensuous, for the time, odalisque style, portrait. She was famous for her intellect and her beauty and in 1860, when she was in her mid-forties, Queen Victoria noted that she was 'still very handsome'.  Born the year after the battle of Waterloo, she died in 1918, at the age of a hundred and one.

Thalberg's opera, Florinda has never been recorded and these days he is best known as a pianist who was a bitter rival to Liszt and who produced a number of piano arrangements of other composer's opera music.  So to keep the theme I am listening to the monumental soundtrack of El Cid, by Miklós Rózsa, in the truly excellent re-recording of the complete score (all 150 minutes of it) by The City of Prague Philharmonic.  

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Elephants, Danes, Afghans and Zulus!

It was a little brighter this morning, so I told the Old Bat that our Saturday morning 'run' (well, more a sort of jog with fast walking bits) would have to be postponed until this afternoon.  The light went at about two, which meant we had to go out in the rain but (and I would never admit it to the Bat) I do feel a bit healthier now that I have returned.  We actually cut our time for our normal route from 38 minutes to 37 minutes today.  I wish I had a giant crumpet to celebrate. 

Guy gets some political tips from Miss Lewinsky

Speaking of celebrations, both the children passed their exams at the end of last term. Guy got a first in his politics paper so perhaps Monica Lewinsky gave him some top tips.  Or perhaps not.  Charlotte was so ill when she did her exam that the invigilator asked her if she wanted to leave, she had to finish early and had to delay her return from Edinburgh at Christmas as she was too ill to pack and get to the airport.  She didn't get home until 23rd December.  However, amazingly, she told us yesterday she had passed.  Miracle.  She was so ill she could barely stand up for over a week. She bought herself a toy Porg from Star Wars The Last Jedi to celebrate.  She is a nerd.  The Old Bat was not impressed.

I was actually able to get a couple of hours painting done this morning; the most for months.  Now, of course, I am supposed to be concentrating on my Victrix Carthaginian war elephants but that would be far too focussed.  Given I was already painting two elephants I thought it was a good opportunity to paint one of my Copplestone ones for Darkest Africa too, so that is now base coated.  I have, at last, after two previous attempts, got the colour right on my Danish 1864 infantry;  a very, very dark gray which is almost, but not quite, black.  In the background you can see the horses for the Danish dragoons which I picked up in North Star's end of year sale.  I am struggling to find uniform details for them however. I also did a little bit on a pack of Perry Afghan tribesmen I picked up at Salute.  This lot will keep me going for months.

At the front right are five of the new Perry Miniatures plastic Zulus which came out this week.  I actually have 72 painted Zulus and a lot more under way (Wargames Factory, Warlord, Empress, Foundry) but these are anatomically, as you would expect, by far the best.  They are, however, a right fiddle to put together, as they have a lot of parts, as you can see on my post over at my Zulu blog.  The arm/shoulder joints will need some filling too but mould lines on them are almost invisible.  Now, how about some plastic Afghan tribesmen?

The elephants are moving along now and I only have to finish their eyes, varnish them and do the metal tusk caps.  Then it will be the dreaded Little Big Men transfers.  I am amused by these elephants as although they are, rightly, smaller than the equivalent bush elephants (Loxodonta africana), being the extinct North African Forest elephant (Loxodonta africana pharaoensis), they do remind me of the old Britains baby elephant (Loxodonta plastica).  

Inspired by Terence Wise's use of these for Carthaginian war elephants in An Introduction to Battle Gaming, when I was about ten I stole my sister's baby elephant and made it a cardboard (I had no access to plasticard as that would have necessitated a trip to Teddington Model Shop) howdah, to hold a couple of Airfix Red Indians for my Carthaginian army.  I asked my mother for a piece of ribbon but she looked horrified and said she didn't do needlework.  My mother did buy me for Christmas, at about this time, a metal 25mm Carthaginian elephant from Under Two Flags, a model soldier ship in St Christopher's Place in London.   She actually made a trip up to London specially. It was a Miniature Figurines one I think and I did paint it, although I have no idea where it ended up.  It is nice, 48 years later, to be working on another one.

Today's wallpaper is a rather languid rendition of Venus by French Painter Henri-Pierre Picou (1824-1895).  Picou came rather later to classical and mythological subjects, so this was probably painted in the 1870s or 1880s. He was a great friend of Jean-Léon Gérôme and, although largely forgotten today, he was probably the most fashionable French painter of the eighteen fifties and sixties.  This depiction of Venus in her shell is unusual compared with the more usual, Botticelli style, upright pose.  Painted from this angle it is much more redolent of the vulva, which it symbolised in ancient times (hence why Venus was born from one).  I don't like much seafood but I do enjoy a nice plump scallop, as did Picou, obviously.

Today's music is my most successful music purchase for some time.  My friend Angela introduced me to the Danish String Quartet and their two remarkable albums Wood Works and Last Leaf.  I don't usually like chamber music (I always think that it is more fun for musicians to play than for audiences to listen to) but this is so good I have played it 12 times since I bought it last week. It is modern but not atonal, folk song based without being 'folky' and is minimalist but tuneful.  It's also quite addictive and doesn't sound like any other music I have in my collection.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Victrix War Elephant Part 1

I have decided to have a Christmas painting project, so ordered the Victrix war elephant for my Carthaginian army.  It arrived today and I have started constructing it.  You can see how far I got on my long neglected Punic Wars blog here.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Paint table Sunday...back from my travels

I have lost the last four weekends to travelling but am now back home with, thankfully, nowhere to go to until well into the new year, hopefully.  The process of going through airports is now so ghastly and stressful I wish I never had to travel again anywhere.  I have done ten flights in under three weeks which is like the bad old days.

I have, at last, finished my North West Frontier Sikh artillery crew and gun.  This completes my initial force for The Men Who Would be Kings rules.  Initially, I painted the Sikhs with a red turban but someone on the TMWWBK Facebook page suggested that they would probably have had khaki turbans (or dastaars, to be more precise) at this time, so I repainted them, even though they look less striking,

So here is the full force (with artillery still with red turbans).  I now need to complete a force of Afghan tribesmen although, at present, I am slightly hampered by the lack of any suitable Afghan cavalry, although the Perry brothers are reputed to be planning some (they seem to have given up on the workbench section of their website) but I still have quite a few infantry to complete.

I have been buying the wargames magazines but increasingly I am finding it difficult to read them as they insist on using grey print in a really tiny font.  I had another eye injection last week but I have begun to realise that I will never be able to paint properly again,  The finish on the Sikhs is very blotchy and things I could paint with no trouble, like collar trim, earlier in the year are just impossible for me now.  There are a couple of things I am looking at on the wargaming front including Footsore Miniatures new Gangs of Rome range, although the figures for this skirmish game are an eye watering £8 each!

More immediately interesting, is the issue of the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings Battle Companies  rule book (for a surprisingly cheap £25).  I collected the rules for this many years ago from White Dwarf but this is the first time they have been published in a book.  Guy, Charlotte and I enjoyed our games of this a lot in the past and the new rules also have companies for the Hobbit which is useful as collecting enough figures for a bigger battle for the Hobbit would be ludicrously expensive.

My only issue is that I was gradually tending more to skirmish gaming but now my eyesight is so bad I am thinking that mass units may be better as painting quality is less critical for en masse figures.  Painting a GW LotR figure now would really be beyond me.  At least I have some Battle Companies already painted, like this Isengard one from 2010.

One thing about subscribing to some of the rule specific wargames pages on Facebook is that I spot things that otherwise would have passed me by, like the new campaign supplement for Congo which features the adventures of a lady explorer.  I haven't played Congo yet, as I missed the one game played at the Shed but I think I would enjoy it.  I ordered mine from Foundry which came with  a number of figures representing the key characters in it.  Maybe I will do some Darkest Africa figures next as I was in Africa earlier in the month.

It is typical that I hadn't had any overseas trips for over a year and then two came along in successive weeks.  First off, I was back to Botswana in a trip which had been rescheduled from earlier in the year.  A horrid little plane from Johannesburg didn't help and then we had 41 degrees centigrade.  Even the locals were complaining about the heat.  We had to wear suits and ties, of course, as that is what the locals in business wear.  It was a successful trip and we will probably be going back for a couple of weeks early next year (or June, given Botswanan urgency).

I was back in the UK for less than a day and then it was off to Houston, on my way to EL Salvador.  I met up with my particular friend, S, there and we had a very enjoyable dinner in the Hotel Zaza (nothing as exciting as Eland and goat which I had in Gaborone for the first time ) but which included the best steak I have ever had in America; really first class and perfectly cooked (i.e, hardly at all).  While in Houston, the firm I was working for (not my usual one) sent me the FCO travel advice for El Salvador.  'There are no safe areas in El Salvador' it began, worryingly and then spent  a page talking about bandits, muggers and kidnappers.

"I'll look after you!" said S, doing a few kickboxing kicks in my room.  Apart from the fact that I didn't know she was planning to come with me, I pointed out that you weren't supposed to fight back.  "No-one is taking my Rolex!" she said, fiercely.  In fact, San Salvador was a pleasant, if slightly ramshackle city, built beneath an active volcano.  "Don't worry it hasn't erupted for a hundred years!"  I was told.  "And a hundred years before that!"  This was starting to sound like a sequence to me but I was assured that the country (the 70th I have visited) had top notch volcanologists to predict such things.

Anyway, the most offensive thing about El Salvador was the fact that they had all their Christmas decorations up, even though it was mid November.  We bravely went out to a restaurant too (it did have armed guards outside) and they were playing Christmas music there!  Fortunately, not Andy Williams Christmas Album.

Ana and Ana!

I had two very helpful assistants to look after me while I was there, make sure I didn't go to the wrong places and help translate (although El Salvadorean Spanish is very clear and I understood about 60% of it).  "Why don't you ever get ugly male assistants?" asked S.  Because it's Latin America!

I flew there and back on United Airlines (actually very good, long haul) and you could pay a few hundred dollars for extra legroom on the Houston/London legs which was well worth it, even though I paid myself and can't claim it back.  So I arrived back home in a better state than usual, only to discover the Old Bat fulminating over her new car.  I won't go into all the issues she has with it (some of which are valid, like no spare tyre and nowhere to put one) but they all, basically come down to baffling technology.  This car (from 2011) is theoretically the same car as her old one (from 2005) but is a completely new model and, in the interim, technology has exploded in cars.  We have no idea what most of the myriad buttons ("I don't want buttons I like knobs!" she says) are for and it has lots of things we will never use like Bluetooth and satnav ("by the time you work out how to programme it you will be where you want to go by using a map!").  We still don't know how to operate the climate control or programme the radio and there are all sorts of buttons on the steering wheel which are equally baffling.  "Just more stuff to go wrong!" she says.  The biggest bugbear was the rear view mirror that automatically darkens to reduce glare from car headlights at night.  She said she couldn't see a thing behind her as a result but she solved the issue by sticking a blob of Blu Tack over the sensor.  When the garage who sold it to her rang after a few days to see how she liked it she harangued them for half an hour about how useless it is and wanted her old car back, except they had already sold it.  The Old Bat doesn't like change and she hates technology even more than me, which is saying something.

I was back just a few days and then it was up to Edinburgh to see Charlotte in the flat that is costing me £8,500 a year! "It's very nice," she says, with its en suite bathroom, central heating and her own kitchen,  Grr!  Students are supposed to suffer!  Luckily for her she is my dear little kitten so gets anything she wants!  Edinburgh was freezing.  Three degrees but the windchill was horrific.  I had had two weeks where the temperature was never less than 29C!  We walked miles and had to have tea in the John Lewis cafe to warm up.  I nearly bought a TV in the Black Friday Sale but I object to Black Friday on principle as it is an unwelcome American import, like grey squirrels, trick or treating, baseball caps and saying 'mac and cheese'.  I didn't buy the TV as it had no Scart sockets which my DVD player requires.

On the last morning, Charlotte took us to the fossil shop and I got a pair of trilobite cufflinks on the basis I like the idea of walking around with something half a billion years old on my cuffs.  Cheaper than a new TV, anyway and I also got an excellent ankylosaurus model there too!  Coming down from the shop, and walking through Grassmarket, the Old Bat pointed out a man dressed as a Viking and asked Charlotte if she knew him.  She did (most of Charlotte's friends in Edinburgh appear to be Dark Ages re-enactors).  He was selling mead, a drink I had never had (I suspect it may not be very diabetic friendly) but he gave me some and it was very good indeed.  Pricey, though at about £20 a bottle.

Now, the Legatus hates Christmas but Edinburgh does Christmas really, really well and after wandering around the huge Christams market, seeing all the lights and decorations on the shops and visiting the ice sculpture exhibition (the advertised minus ten temperature didn't feel much colder than the streets outside) even I was starting to feel a bit Christmassy.  Horrors!

Desnudo de mujer (1902)

Today's wallpaper is by Spanish impressionist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) who was best known for his bright sunlit landscapes and beach scenes.  He studied in Madrid and Rome and had a great success at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900.  A very productive painter, he was financially very successful.  His widow left many paintings to the Spanish state and they are exhibited in his old home in Madrid.  This is a full on boudoir effort, very different from some of his social themed pieces and atypical in many ways but, none the less, magnificent in its handling of pink satin.

Today's music is Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings Symphony, an interesting reworking of the main themes from his three films.  Recorded live (although you wouldn't know it) in Switzerland in 2011 the orchestra isn't a patch on the RPO but still does a pretty good job.  My iTunes LotR playlist lasts 21 hours so there will be plenty of music to paint by!