Sunday, October 22, 2017

Paint Table Sunday: Rocks 2




A brief entry this week as I have had no time to do hobby stuff, lately, and am trying to evade potential oversea trips.  Nigeria has been postponed (hooray) and I shifted Saudi onto a colleague (double hooray - at least Nigeria has beer and statuesque women to look at) but still have two week long trips in November (I get back from one on Saturday and have to fly to the next on Sunday).  In fact we are going to see Charlotte again in Edinburgh that month, so I will have to do 10 flights in November.  I hate flying and will probably expire on one of these trips.  At least my blood pressure is down, thanks to my glamorous new doctor.  190 over 100 not so good, 130 over 83, much better.

Yesterday, I did get a bit of paint on my Savage Core/Lost World rock formations.  I have three big aquarium pieces and will add some smaller CD and MDF based ones to scatter around them.   I still haven't tried painting any figures lately but have to have an eye operation next week (I don't even want to think about it).




I haven't bought much hobby stuff, either, although I did succumb to this Star Wars kit on the basis that I will probably get Star Wars Legion when it comes out next year.  This AT-ST is, it seems, exactly the right scale for the 32mm figures.  It's a long time since I made a complex model kit (Renedra buildings apart) so I am not sure how this will go, given my dodgy eyesight.  I'm not going to give up trying yet, though.




I have had several requests to become friends on Facebook lately but when I have looked at the person's page they are usually full of the standard political drivel so I don't bother with them.  Facebook can be useful, though, and recently there was a post on the Death in the Dark Continent players page which highlighted the fact that the old BBC series, The Search for The Nile, from 1971, had been put on DVD at last.  I saw this when it first came out and have been hoping it would appear at some point but it disappeared.  Great to see it again now.  Shot on location in Africa and with James Mason narrating I can't wait until mine comes from Amazon!  There seemed to be a feeling that the BBC wouldn't release it given they regarded it now as politically incorrect.  Interestingly it is labelled as "as seen on the BBC" not an actual BBC disc.  Should be good African inspiration anyway.

I need to clear out some old figures and rules of periods I am never going to realistically paint or play.  First up is Frostgrave where I have some of the books and a few figures.  Eric the Shed played a game or two and was not impressed with the rules mechanism which he found a bit blunt (especially combat).  I found all the descriptions of how magic worked totally confusing and well beyond my poor brain.  As a fantasy world I would rather stick to Lord of the Rings, especially with the news that the Battle Companies rules (which only ever appeared in White Dwarf, some years ago) are coming back.


J interviews the Legatus


Speaking of Lord of the Rings, Guy, who is on the Oxford Union Committee this term, was a bit miffed that Liv Tyler cancelled at the last minute but this week he met JJ Abrams (which made Charlotte jealous).  I used to enjoy his Alias (although I still haven't watched the final series, where Jennifer Garner was pregnant and Rachel Nichols came in to do the action stuff).  One of my past lady friends, J, a kickboxing infrastructure journalist was the motion capture body double for Jennifer Garner for the Playstation Alias game, which is why it is the only computer game I own.




Now we live in pretty much equidistant from three supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose) so I don't get over to Morrisons in Weybridge very often any more, now Guy isn't rowing but I went there earlier in the week to take some books to the charity bookshop (most charity shops won't take books any more and the price you can get for them on eBay makes it not worth the effort of selling them).  Anyway I was staggered to see that Morrison's sells Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc (the best sauvignon blanc on the planet - well, it used to be).  I had to buy some.  I had the very first vintage of this wine when I visited their sister vineyard in Western Australia, Cape Mentelle, in 1987.  I tried to get it back in the UK but it wasn't imported then.  The initial run was very small, not like the 100,000 cases plus they produce now, now that they are owned by LVMH.   In fact it was the Cape Mentelle, Australian team that chose the name, against the wishes of the New Zealand winemakers who wanted to call it Tua Marina.

I might have some time this afternoon to do some painting so might see if I can do a bit on my Sikh artillery which I really want to finish as it will complete my TMWWBK's British force.  So far it looks bright this morning.




It's all a bit Austrian this week (my family on my mother's side was Austro-Hungarian) and today's wallpaper is a painting by Austrian artist Franz Eybl (1806-1880) who by the age of ten had already entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.  Most of his paintings were landscapes or portraits so this lovely nude, from about 1860, is unusual.  Portraying an everyday scene, rather than a classical or mythical story, was somewhat unusual and daring for the time.  Her figure (especially her posterior) is very reminiscent of J, the computer game body double, I realise.  I did do some drawings of J rather like this.  I wonder where they are? Viennese bakers, in this period, were famous all over Europe and the croissant (as seen on the bottom left), as we would call it now, was very much an Austrian not a French creation (the modern croissant was created by a former Austrian artillery officer (inserts desperate military reference) who set up a Viennese bakery in Paris in the late eighteen thirties).




Austrian music too, in the long and expensive form of the complete Mozart symphonies by Jaap Schröder, Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, using period instruments.  I remember going along to Blackwells Music Shop in Oxford, when the first boxed set (not box set, pig ignorant Millennials), came out in 1980 and finding that they had all sold out in four hours.  It has taken me 37 years to buy them and discover the complexity and controversy over authorship of these symphonies.  Being a late romantic aficionado I have always had a rather schizophrenic relationship with Mozart (50% hack, 50% genius) but they certainly make calming background music when writing reports on US education models.


Mirabel machine made


Now, Mozart also reminds me of the world's most sickly chocolate: the Mozartkugeln, a disgusting amalgam of chocolate and praline marzipan which has also been the subject of bitter legal battles in the cut throat world of European chocolate.  The originals are hand produced by Fuerst but other firms, notably the better marketed Mirabel, are allowed to produce their versions under slightly different names.


Fuerst, hand made


I discovered these hideous chocolates in Switzerland in the mid nineteen eighties when I had a girlfriend who was just about perfect (39D-23-36), apart from her penchant for sickly food and drink  (she loved Bailey's Irish cream. embarrassingly) products.  My mother always wanted me to marry her and, indeed, invited her to dinner the night before I married the Old Bat, as a sort of 'you've made a big mistake' gesture.  S would do anything (literally) for Mozartkugeln and so in the (we shamefully admit) four year intersection between her and the Old Bat (Plastic Woman, the Old Bat called her, on account of her wearing, shock, horror, makeup) I plundered the duty free shops of Europe to feed her insatiable appetite for these stomach churning treats. The complete Mozart symphonies is, I admit, a sort of aural box of Mozartkugeln and there is only so much you can listen to without feeling queasy.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: Rocks!



Not, of course, Paint Table Saturday rocks, as I am not a faux teenage American.  No, in my actual hobby time on Saturday today, I did not actually paint anything but I did do some work on my progressing scenic project for the Lost World and Savage Core (had one of those today with an apple from our tree which contained a nasty little visitor - although we are getting some lovely apples, on the whole, this year).




Last week, at Colours, I bought a couple of scenic rocks and during the week I sprayed them black and painted the base the same colour (Humbrol 29) as the bases on my figures.  You can see one of these in the picture at the top, which is now ready for the first coat of dry brushed grey.  I also painted all the little stones black as they will be grey too and not just the earth colour of the original.  I have envisaged a rocky landscape with added 'follidge' so was looking for one more large piece to comlpement the two I bought.  I found an excellent one on eBay which arrived this week.  I liked the look of this a lot but thought it had too much follidge for my purposes.




Like Monty Don attacking a bed of weeds, I set to and removed all the follidge, putting it aside for replanting later, where it will be scattered amongst the three pieces to give them some visual unity.  I discovered that each piece of follidge was planted in a little recess filled with (I assume) hot glue.  Having pulled the plants out (like real weeds, some came out easier that others) I then prized out the little hardened pots of hot glue (on the right) which, with a bit of help from a sharp knife, popped out like the scarabs in the wall in that scene in The Mummy.  One or two even skittered across the floor.




I admit to doing all this in the kitchen rather than at my desk, which meant doing so in the presence of the Old Bat.  Having worked out where some paths could go, I started to fill the recesses with filler, only for the Old Bat to point out that if I stuck some stones in the holes they would look better and also mean I would have to use less filler.  This never occurred to me but the Old Bat is good at crafts.  Fortunately, the Old Bat had a bucket of small rocks outside, left over from her demolition of the rockery, and after bashing some to bits with a hammer I  dropped them in the holes and topped them up with filler.  I have left some unfilled for the replacement follidge but now have some clear paths through the piece.  Tomorrow I will put some PVA and sand over the filled parts and, if it stays dry, spray it black.





All of this scenic effort compensates somewhat for a dismal attempt at figure painting last Sunday, when I tried to paint one of my Savage Core Amazons.  I have problems with my left eye (basically a blurred patch) and have now discovered that I cannot paint faces on my figures any more.  I tried and tried but just can't see what I am doing.  Hopefully, if they are roaming around lovely rocks no-one will notice but I found it frustrating not to be able to paint her features. She has a hood on, which makes it more difficult, admittedly, but I was quite depressed about it for a few days.




I went into Kingston last week to get September's wargames magazines and some spray undercoat and ended up buying a new chair for my desk.  Mine broke some months ago which meant that its spring loaded reclining function had gone, so in order to not fall out the back I had to sit perched on the front in such a way that the seat was cutting off the blood from my legs and giving me cramp.  Now I have a nice new chair, although Charlotte, who is now back in Edinburgh, said that I must have really tidied up my floor for this photograph, which is true. 




Today's wallpaper is a particularly enticing looking odalisque by the American orientalist painter Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928).  Originating, like the airmen, in Tuskegee, Alabama, he studied in Paris under Gérôme  (of Pollice Verso fame).  He spent a lot of time in Algeria and Egypt, making sketches and collecting clothing and props to give his paintings an authentic air.  Many of his paintings were accurate records of life in North Africa at the time but he produced a fair number of more exotic odalisques as well and none more enticing than this one.  Like all orientalist painters, his work fell out of fashion from the mid nineteen fifties but now they can  fetch $250,000 and up.




Today's music is the new CD by the principal harpist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Elizabeth Hainen, which she planned out when stuck in her house in a snowstorm for several days.  An eclectic mix of composers from Bach to Glass it provides the requisite relaxation my glamorous new doctor says I need in order to reduce my very high blood pressure.  My musical niece, who is staying with us during the week while studying at the Guildhall School of Music, had a bit of a coup yesterday evening, when one of her compositions was played on Radio 3.  A proper composer, now!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Shopping at Colours...


This used to be the grass car park


Honestly, you get no posts for months and then two in a day! I was up early this morning to walk to the station (the Old Bat refused to drive me) to get over to Surbiton to meet up with Eric the Shed, who drove me to Colours with John, another Shedizen.  Unlike Salute, which I go to on public transport, I always drove to Colours (last time I attempted it in 2015 I had to give up as the M25 was so bad) so I tend to focus on buying scenery when I go there.  Since I went there last time in 2013, Newbury race course have built loads of flats (the sort that IT people live in) there, meaning a different way in and a more sophisticated car park.  Good job Eric was driving as I wouldn't have found the way in at all.  Fortunately. the M25 Gods smiled and we were there by just after ten.




I didn't take any pictures inside, partly because it was so dark (it made Salute look like a Hollywood sound stage in comparison) and partly because there was nothing to take pictures of, really. Some of the traders were in areas so dark that they looked like caves.  My deteriorating eyesight struggled.  The games, on the top of the three floors, looked rather dull and were right on top of each other, so getting at them was almost impossible.   I always considered the show as number two after Salute and above Warfare in Reading, in ranking of those I go to regularly but this year it seemed a bit dingy and sad.  Not what it was.




I didn't really have a shopping list except a vague plan to look at trees and I certainly wasn't really planning to buy any figures.  The first thing I saw were some Congo style wooden shields at the Foundry stand.  Now I have wanted these for some time but they weren't on the Foundry website so I was very glad to pick them up, despite the usurious price of £10 for 12 shields. 




Having said I didn't like MDF for scenic basis I couldn't resist these for some intermediate follidge pieces.  They are mid-way between my washer bases and the CD one I have made and are quite thin.  I might try and sand the edges a bit as we have borrowed the Old Bat's father's corner sander.  However, I have a fear of power tools, generally, so I will have to be brave as it is never as easy to use them as it appears.  When it comes to using tools I am always seconds away from A&E.




Next up, were some trees for Africa.  No acacia types but these have the requisite tall trunks and high canopies I was looking for.  I need a lot more like this.






I wanted some big rocks for Savage Core as I had always liked the publicity shot they produced early on, of simians on a rock in the jungle.  This, I suspect, from the cave/opening in it, started life as an aquarium piece but I was very happy to buy a based one.  I then went back and bought another smaller rock.  I will re-paint then and add some follidge.




When I got back home and looked at the Savage Core Facebook page I realised, to my delight, that the rock model I had bought was exactly the same as the one Lucid Eye had used.   Very happy with this!




I did get a few figures.  Recently, Lucid Eye have announced that the various factions for Savage Core will be appearing in cold weather Ice Age type garb, so I picked up the first of the Amazons (although heavily dressed Amazons goes against my aesthetic sensibilities).  I had no idea why the range had a man dressed as a German officer holding a rock but the rules make it perfectly clear, so I picked him up too.




I got the Lucid Eye figures at the Crooked Dice stand, so took the opportunity to pick up the new female cultists who will probably see service in In Her Majesty's Name.  I added nine figures to the lead pile but I really am going to start selling some unpainted figures off as I desperately need the space and Eric the Shed was appalled by the number of unpainted figures I have got.  He reckons he has only about a hundred unpainted figures, whereas I think I have about eight thousand!

All in all, I was very happy with my purchases and it was very kind of Eric to give me a lift.  I whizzed around the show pretty quickly and we left at about one o'clock.  I had a chat with Eric and Matakishi, who I once played a game of Prehistoric Settlement with, at Guildford Wargames Club.  Staggeringly, he remembered me!  I also had a long chat and a bacon roll (my glamorous new doctor would not approve) with Mike of Black Hat Miniatures, who originally invited me to my first game at Guildford many years ago.  This was all remarkably social for me!

Sadly (well actually not), we heard last night that we had won a big bid I did a lot of work on for Colombia, which means six to eight frantic weeks of work (I will try and avoid the Bogota section as I am due to go to Africa again in early November and, possibly, Central America later that month).  It will put paid to my hoped for more hobby time, though.  Tomorrow, I won't have any time either as I have to take Charlotte to the airport to go back to Edinburgh.  She left it until the last minute (as she does with everything) to decide on her flight and, as a result, it cost me £293 single (British Airways are advertising flights to the US for £325 at the moment!) plus £60 excess baggage for an extra suitcase.  Think how much follidge I could have bought for that.  I could have got my naked girly statue for that too!  The children's university accommodation is going to cost me about £15,000 this year.  The least they could do is empty the dishwasher once in a while.  Children!  Who needs them?

Paint Table Saturday: Sikhs and Follidge!




My lack of free weekends has continued, to my frustration, as I really want to play with my hot glue gun again, having produced my one, very simple, piece of folliidge (as the annoying Terrain Tutor calls it). I have been scouring garden centres looking for aquarium plants (and a nice naked girly statue for the garden to go outside my room - I think I have found one) and have, over the last few weeks, collected a plastic crate of equally plastic plants.




These have come from a number of garden centres in the area but Chessington has much the biggest range, although their selection of girly statues is poor.  Added to the usual plethora of Buddhas (why?) is now a new fashion for dragons which I am sure is something to do with Game of Thrones.


Congo jungle


It has taken some time for me to get over worrying about what follidge would look authentic for different environments, as I study pictures of, for example, the Congo  I have been worrying about the different definitions of 'jungle' and 'rain forest' and whether or not they have palm trees in the jungle (someone said on one group that they only existed at the coast in Africa not along rivers).  Then I found pictures of them along rivers and worried that while they may have them today, perhaps they weren't growing in the nineteenth century.  I then realised that given my African project was likely to feature an Amazon tribe (not a tribe from the Amazon -that is an entirely different project) then perhaps I was over thinking it and I should just  get some scenic pieces made!




I have decided to use, initially, round bases which are large washers and CDs/DVDs, partly because they are nice and thin and avoid that 'step up' scenery issue you get with MDF.  Also, I have no tools and no ability to use them so cannot contemplate how you get nice rounded shaped bases (you use a dremmel (?) according the the Terrain Tutor but I have no idea what one is and certainly don't want to own one).  Anyway, having watched the Terrain Tutor's annoying but (I have to admit) helpful videos on making jungle bases I will be proceeding with some, over the next week or so.  


Like Surrey with elephants


I have several different projects for which I will need jungle: Congo, The Lost World,  Savage Core and (possibly) conquistadores in Brazil and Panama   My dormant Zambezi campaign will not really use jungle terrain because, having travelled to Zambia some years ago, the terrain isn't really jungly at all but looks rather like, well, Surrey, where I live.  Also I have based my figures using  a pinkiish beige colour for that part of Africa so will need different coloured scenic bases.  There is a real problem in finding model trees suitable for Africa; with tall trunks and high canopies or wide-spreading Acacia trees


Lost World Explorers


My initial plan for these new jungle bases was for Savage Core (as I really like the new rules) and I have painted my Neanderthals with the brown bases so I will do so for the other tribes.  Also, I don't have to worry about authentic plants and can use some of the red ones that I have got for this.  I can also use some of these for the Lost World and the Amazon too.   So I will carry on and make some more brown coloured base jungle pieces.


Savage Core explorer painted for The Lost World


At this point I am not going to do trees in this new jungle base style.  I actually have quite a few trees up in the loft and am not sure whether there should be any for Savage Core (how would trees grow underground, anyway).  I will do some separate tree bases later.  One thing, however, is that I find the whole land under earth so troubling, scientifically, that maybe my Savage Core world would be better in a plateau in the Amazon, in the manner of the TV series Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, with its tribe of the week.




Another tree problem has been resolved recently, however, in that I have found, at last, some suitable leafless trees for winter from the (expensive) railway scenery firm of Hoch.  I bought four of these and they seem to vary in price quite a lot, depending on where you get them from.  This, at last, gets me over my 1864 scenery problem and, given that North Star have released some more Danes recently, it puts them, if not at the front burner, then off the back burner.




Latterly, my eyesight, which has been deteriorating for some time, has taken a turn for the worse (especially my left eye) and I really thought that my figure painting days were over.  However, this week, with some bright light outside, I had a go at doing a bit more on my Sikh artillery for the North West Frontier.  I do have to squint a lot and am worried that I may end up looking like Lieutenant Columbo but I could just manage it.  Although I now know I won't be able to paint figures again to the standard of the ones further up this page, I can still paint to acceptable wargames standard, so that will just have to do.   But as my lady friend A says: "As you look at them from three feet higher than the table what does it matter?"   Maybe if I have nice follidge, people won't notice the blurry painting!


My niece (conducting!)


My musical niece is going to be staying with us, intermittently, over the next few weeks as she has been awarded a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and will find it easier to commute from here than her house, so we have had to clear out Guy's old bedroom as it was full of boxes of rubbish.  As a result we had to put stuff in the loft which meant getting rid of stuff up there.  The Old Bat keeps eyeing my wargames pile up there and saying that as I haven't touched it for years maybe I don't need it.  As a sop to her, I decided to get rid of a load of old model kits and am getting rid of a lot of SF film books too.  I do need to look at this wargames pile, though, as I have no idea what is in it!




Today's music is the opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes by Rameau, which was first staged in 1735.    Partly inspired by a visit to the court of Louis XV by a group of native Americans about ten years previously, the opening has Hebe, the goddess of youth presiding over dances by her followers. The happy revels are interrupted by Bellona (how we loved their vacuum formed scenery in the seventies), goddess of war who wants to take them off to fight, much to the disgust of Cupid who decides to seek a more love-friendly environment in the Indies (basically a series of exotic lands including the Peru of the Incas, the Ottoman Empire and North America - it is a loose definition of Indies).




I first saw this opera on Blu-ray at my friend A's house a couple of months ago, in a modern dress version produced in Bordeaux.  Well, I say modern dress but for most of the thirty minute prologue no one is dressed at all, apart from the splendid, part Berber, French-Algerian soprano Amel Brahim-Djelloulas as Hebe, who is wearing the most diaphanous of shifts.  Something of the flavour of this entertaining, if not entirely successful, production can be seen in this prologue here, complete with Mlle. Brahim-Delloulas in her shift and some rather sweet but silly naked dancing.  The Chrsitie conducted CD is musically superior, however.


Harem nude (c. 1910)


More orientalist inspiration in today's wallpaper of a harem nude by Georges Antoine Rochegrosse  (1859-1938), one of a number of harem style nudes he produced.  There is an Algerian link to Rochegrosse, as well, as he spent his winters there and utilised  source material from there for many of his paintings.




Rochegrosse also produced this wonderfully spirited painting called The Heroes of Marathon, which certainly makes up in energy what it lacks in accurate phalanx depiction.

Off to Colours today with Eric the Shed!  Haven't been there since 2013 and when I wrote up my report on the blog, then, I was contacted for the first time by...Eric the Shed!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

I am back blogging!




For various reasons which I will go into at inordinate length on another occasion, I have had no hobby time over the last three months and, therefore, it seemed pointless to do any posts.  I did do a review of Dan Mersey's new Wargmes Guide to the Anglo-Zulu War and now you have an exciting Vuelta a España themed Spanish recipe to enjoy today too, on my food blog.


Follidge!


I had one hobby triumph in that I bought a hot glue gun (thanks for all the encouragement, tips and warning from my Facebook friends) and stuck an aquarium plant to a base. I felt very clever and now have more bases painted and ready to be covered in 'follidge', as the Terrain Tutor calls it.  This has really caught on in our house and even the Old Bat is referring to the 'follidge' in the garden.  I went to Staines at the weekend and bought some lichen and clump follidge in Hobby Craft.  I haven't bought any lichen since about 1972 and was very excited by the chance to buy actual  clump follidge (which sounds like a character in an English Civil War novel) as recommended by the Terrain Tutor (yeah?)


Very good at golf!


I hope I might actually get some time to do some more follidge on Saturday, although I have to take my daughter to and from Kingston to meet her friends for lunch (unlike Guy, she has not learned to drive yet).  The Old Bat ran into the mother of one of Charlotte's friends from junior school at the weekend.  I was asked to conduct a drawing class for them once at the school when they were all about  ten and remember this girl from that.




Then they emigrated to Florida where the girl took up golf and became State champion.  They have now moved back to the UK.  "You can look her up on the internet, her mother told the Old Bat, proudly.  "search her name and then add 'golf'.

"Goodness me, she has grown up!" said the Old Bat.  I thought of that song from Gigi and felt very old.  I wonder whether she would like another drawing lesson?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: North West Frontier, Rolls-Royce cars, their famous mascot and some young ladies



Well, it always cheers me up when I finish a few figures, although it's nothing compared to Eric the Shed's complete French Chasseur brigade this week!  The six figures I finished yesterday completes the two 12 man units (plus the Sikhs which I have done already) of infantry I need for my initial The Men Who Would Be King force for the North-West Frontier; with just a mountain gun and crew to complete.  I have painted 82 figures this year. so far, which is my best total since 2014 and equals the amount of figures I did in the whole of 2013.  I hope I can keep the momentum up.




The question, now, is what do I do next?  I should really paint some more Confederate Infantry and I have some already started but as I only have the three Sikh gunners and the mountain gun to finish to complete the British force I am going to do them, I think.




 One of the Facebook groups I belong to is The Great British Hobbit League and looking at everyone else's Lord of the Rings figures is making we want to have a go at painting some more, if my eyes are up to it.  What I need to do is find some part painted figures to finish, which I know I must have somewhere (Men of Gondor?) but sitting behind my monitor for years are the trolls from the first Hobbit film.  One of these is well on the way so I may do something on that.  Talking to Guy today, I told him that they are releasing the Lord of the Rings Battle Companies rules in a book this year (they were only previously available on download).  Guy and I had a number of good games using these rules but I was amazed when he said that maybe we could have a game over the summer.  It would be fun to play some of these again! 


On the left the Director of Brooklands tries to recruit Charlotte into the team of volunteers at the museum while my mother in law and the Old Bat both know she is too lazy to get up in the morning


I've got a tricky work situation (don't worry I'm not going to go into tedious details) which means that I am waiting to do something but can't proceed until the client gets their contract signed.  So having expected to be working flat out this week I had rather more time than expected and could go with the family and the parents in law to the start of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club 60th anniversary tour of Britain, at Brooklands.  


My parents in law with Prince Michael of Kent 


My father in law has an old Bentley, of course, but is also a member of the RREC as he used to have a Rolls-Royce.  Anyway, he gave a speech to the members at their dinner this week, along with Prince Michael of Kent, who was there on Wednesday to send them all off to their first stop in Dorset.


The first Silver Ghost starts up the hill climb.  The lady in the passenger seat is frantically hand-pumping fuel to give the car the required boost.  They just made it!


Rather surprisingly, given some of these cars are more than a hundred years old and they are due to make a two week tour of Britain, they had a hill climb competition for the Silver Ghosts.  The Brooklands (it was the world's first purpose built motor racing circuit) test hill is very steep indeed but more than a dozen Silver Ghosts got up it.  


You're not going to make it!


The only failure was a lovely car driven by an American.  "Don't change gear on the hill", advised my father in law.  The American changed gear on the hill.  The car stopped,  He threw his wife out and tried to get going again. The car started to slide backwards.  They had to undertake a controlled backwards descent on the brakes (Silver Ghosts only have breaks on the rear wheels).  


Prince Michael of Kent drives R562 to Beaulieu


One of the Silver Ghosts, R562, had done the 2000 km Alpine Challenge back in 2013 (a hundred years after first completing it) which involved going over a host of Alpine passes including the dreaded Stelvio Pass (the second highest pass in the Alps, at 2757 metres) which the Giro d'Italia riders had struggled over a few weeks before.  Prince Michael of Kent drove it down to Beaulieu Motor Museum for lunch.


Eleanor Thornton with a tiny model of herself


It was the mistress of the second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu. Eleanor Thornton, of course, who was the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy radiator ornament.  Lord Montagu met Eleanor in 1902, when she was a secretary at the motoring magazine he edited.  


One of four bronzes made of  The Whisper by Sykes


In those days Rolls-Rovce cars didn't have an official radiator ornament so Lord Montagu commissioned his artist friend Charles Robinson Sykes to design one for his Silver Ghost in 1909.  Sykes used Eleanor as the model and produced a figure of her holding her finger to he lips.  It was dubbed 'The Whisper' in reference to their illicit affair. 


Sykes Bronze of the Spirit of Ecstasy


These ornaments were becoming more and more fashionable so in 1911 Rolls-Royce officially commissioned Sykes to produce an (optional at first) ornament for all their new cars.  Sykes again used Eleanor Thornton (in rather more clothed form) for the model and the Spirit of Ecstasy (originally called the Spirit of Speed) was born.


Charles Sykes drawing of Eleanor Thornton


Thornton didn't live to see herself becoming a global icon, sadly.  She was travelling with Lord Montagu on the P & O liner SS Persia, bound for India in December 1915 when it became the first passenger ship to be torpedoed (by the German submarine U38) without warning during WW1. 




The ship sank off the coast of Crete in less than ten minutes and 343 of the 519 on board drowned.  Only fifteen women on board survived and Eleanor Thornton was not one of them, although Lord Montagu did survive (he had his own custom designed life jacket) and his son, born nine years later, founded the National Motor Museum at the family home of Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire.




Today's music is an example of my collection of limited edition extended versions of some of my favourite soundtracks.  Last week I added the two disc version of James Horner's soundtrack for The Rocketeer (1991), one of my favourite pulp films (although Disney originally wanted to set it in the present day).  The Rocketeer is one of Horner's best soundtracks and the extended version includes his excellent pastiche of Korngold for the scene at the film studio. where villain Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) performs on a set largely inspired by The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (for which Korngold won the best soundtrack Oscar).


September Morn (1912)


Today's wallpaper distraction is from the same period as The Spirit of Ecstasy and is by French painter Paul Émile Chabas (1869-1937) who was born in Nantes and trained under William-Adolphe Bouguereau.  He first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1890 and was awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Although he painted many portraits, he was best known for his pictures of women and girls bathing in lakes and pools.  Chabas took three years, working during the summers, to finish his most famous painting, September Morn.  The setting was Lake Annecy, in the mountains of Savoie and Chabas painted the background on location.  He finished the painting one morning in September 1912, hence the name. Who the model for the painting was has never been clear and several women claimed to be the subject.  In is possible the figure is actually based on two girls; one for the body and another for the head and it is likely that she was drawn in the studio not on location.


Chabas


The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1912 where it won the Medaille d’Honneur, to critical acclaim. What happened next, however, was completely unprecedented and led to the picture playing a significant role in an early American censorship battle. In those days, popular paintings were often reproduced as prints. In March 1913 one of these reproductions of September Morn was being displayed in the window of Fred Jackson’s Art Store in Chicago.  A passing policeman saw it, decided it was obscene, and ordered Jackson to remove the picture from his window. This he did but soon put it back.  Spotting this, the police returned, bought a copy of the picture and presented it to the Mayor, Carter Harrison Jr.   Harrison was a reformer and in 1911 had established the Chicago Vice Commission.


Mayor Harrison and his wife in 1913 


Mayor Harrison agreed that the picture violated the municipal code, which banned the exhibit of “any lewd picture or other thing whatever of an immoral or scandalous nature.”  They prosecuted Jackson, much to the outrage of the local artistic community. Despite testimony from local worthies that the picture was immoral and shouldn’t be viewed by children under fourteen the jury, after only thirty minutes deliberation, unanimously acquitted Jackson who immediately presented each juror with a copy of the painting, which they all gratefully received. This decision led to numerous shops displaying the picture so that the city then had to specifically forbid the display of “nude pictures in any window, except at art or educational exhibitions.”  Needless to say this just increased interest in the painting. The city appealed but in May 1914 the First District Appelate Court ruled that the picture was not indecent, although they made cutting comments regarding its exploitation. Only two months after the initial Chicago controversy, in May 1913, a similar furore took place in New York. Tipped off, it is said, by a school teacher, Anthony Comstock, the head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice entered the Braun & Co art dealers’ showroom where September Morn was on display in the window. He ordered the removal of the picture. James Kelly the salesman on duty informed Comstock that the picture was “the famous September Morning”.  Kelly allegedly replied that “There’s too little morning and too much maid.”  Kelly’s boss then later ordered the picture back into the window where it remained for five days, whilst the gallery expected the return of Comstock any day. In the end Braun & Co took the picture down themselves as the crowds it was drawing were interfering with normal customers and they'd sold all their prints anyway.. The manager of the gallery wrote an incensed letter to the New York Times and arguments raged about the picture all over America.  In December 1914 the students of a college in Ohio publicly burnt copies of the picture, along with other erotic literature and other questionable (by their standards) pictures.


Ann Pennington 


All of this just generated huge publicity for the picture. Millions of prints (some estimate as many as seven million) were sold and it was reproduced on postcards, bottle openers, cigar bands, umbrellas, watch fobs, chocolate boxes and many others. A song was written about it, there was an onstage recreation of it in the Ziegfield Follies (by the petite, 4’10”dancer Ann Pennington) and it was even the subject of a Broadway musical. It is also generally believed to have been the first nude picture on a calendar to go on sale.  Chabas himself never made any money from all these reproductions, although he did sell the original to a Russian collector, Leon Mantacheff, for the not inconsiderable sum of $10,000. It is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York because the Philadelphia Museum of Art had turned the picture down because it had “no significance”.


Hugh Hefner prepares to test his 'It's all art' argument using the Playboy Playmate of the Month for January 1958 and September Morn


Twenty-one years after Chabas’ death, September Morn was set to be involved in another indecency trial, oddly, also with a Chicago connection.  Hugh Hefner had been publishing Playboy there for just over four years and the authorities had constantly tried to stop him. His Playmate of the Month for January 1958 gave them another chance to have a go at him. Rather naively, Playboy thought that because a mother gave permission for her daughter to pose and because she accompanied her to the photo session, no-one would care that college girl Elizabeth Ann Roberts was only 17 at the time (some even say 15 or 16 -i t does look like her mother claimed she was 18).


Roberts.  Not very old at all, really


Her pictorial's title of "Schoolmate playmate" probably didn't help and a local newspaper wrote a column condemning Playboy for having someone so young appearing in the magazine.  As a result, both Playboy and Roberts' mother were charged with 'contributing to the delinquency of a minor'. Hefner planned to defend himself using the fact that the model for September Morn, which had been deemed not indecent in Chicago some forty years before, was also believed to have been a teenage girl (fifteen years old, Chabas once said, although his comments were not necessarily reliable). In the end ,Hefner didn't get the chance to rail against censorship in court, as the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Playboy had learned its lesson, however, and immediately insisted all its models had to be 18 years or over (at least when the magazine appeared on sale - several more seventeen year olds were photographed for the centrefold in ensuing years) from then on.