Friday, 27 December 2019

Crikey What A Kerfuffle

Guns are dangerous. I get it. I really do. But you'd have been forgiven for thinking that when I arrived at the Newhaven customs barrier in 2014 with a black powder musket, that I was trying to smuggle a low grade tactical nuclear warhead into France. 

I had all the requisite paperwork with me and had even called ahead a week in advance to the ports security chief to alert him to the date and time of my arrival. 

I'm pretty certain the guys name was Dave. 

Unfortunately nobody at the port had ever heard of a "Dave". 

I was ordered to drive into a holding area. Senior staff were summoned. A functionary in a stab vest and a "flecky" jacket arrived and demanded that I hand the weapon over to him for safekeeping. The Ferry company would send it on to me in France (at my expense) he said, after word was received from the Gendarmerie in my new locale that it was okay to do so.

I explained to him that I would love to comply but I obviously couldn't just go handing a gun over to any old johnny in a uniform. Did he have a shotgun licence?

Erm, no he didn't.

It was pitch black and raining. Somewhere overhead a helicopter began hovering. 

The official seemed unhappy at my intransigence. He barked into a walkie talkie in an attempt to secure someone higher up the food chain. A little knot of border guards began to gather nearby.

I had a sudden image of me lying in a puddle of my own urine, being tazered repeatedly by the grinning bastards. 

The helicopter drew closer. Perhaps I wasn't going to get tazered. Perhaps the SAS were about to abseil onto the roof of my box Luton from a special forces Blackhawk?

I was still working through scenario's of my imminent demise when an older woman from the Ferry company appeared in response to "flecky" jacket's summons. A brief exchange revealed her husband was also a re enactor and she tartly explained to her junior that I could probably do more damage using the musket as a ruddy club than firing it. We agreed that it could be locked in the ship's safe and that I could reclaim it once we reached the other side. 

Problem solved.

Of course I was never coming back to blighty so the issue was never going to rear its ugly head again was it!

And then there was the bloody referendum. 

Agonising over how to approach the matter of the weapons return I Initially buried it amongst my goods and chattels but realising that even buried it'd never get past a sophisticated scanner or a trained sniffer dog I eventually just chucked it on the back of the van in plain sight. If they were going to find it, then the last thing I wanted to have to do was to unload half of my underpants onto the tarmac so they could get at the damned thing.

The remaining days in France passed quickly. It wasn't long before I found myself in another bloody Luton, making the return journey to Britain. My official license to legally possess the musket had long since expired and security measures at every port had increased significantly since those halcyon days of 2014. The circumstances did not bode well.

We pulled up at the French checkpoint in Cherbourg next to a sign that advised that failure to declare  a firearm was an imprisonable offence, it was pitch black and raining cats and dogs. The Douane guy in his cosy check point didn't appear in a hurry to venture out into it. The Current Mrs Broom wound the window down and handed over our passports.

"What iz in zee van Monsieur? he enquired.

"Our whole world mate…" I replied.

"So you are leaving France for ever?" 

I nodded. 

"I sink per apps it is zee brexit, yes?" he said, comparing my face to that shown on the passport.

Suddenly he stared at me…deeply suspicious.

My face froze in a rictus like grin.

The customs man narrowed his eyes. "You are leaving France…yet you are not sad! Surely Monsieur you should be crying?"

TCMB and I looked at each other, unsure if this was an observation or a thinly veiled instruction. We decided on the latter and both of us burst into a bout of child like pretend crying which seemed to mollify him a little.

"You av sold your 'ouse?" he continued.

We nodded, through the faux tears.

"And where in France did you live?"

"In the Limousin".

"The Limousin? … Ahah! Then per apss Monsieur I sink you should stop crying and start laughing instead! he joked as he waved us on.

Bugger me… a French customs official with a sense of humour…who knew?

Well that was one hurdle crossed. But the British side was bound to be trickier. 10 hours later we landed at Poole and the size of the van meant we were immediately picked out for a "randomised" inspection. A genial looking old copper flagged us over into a special search area. 

During the two day process of loading the van in France I had managed to aggravate a very old elbow injury which was giving me serious gyp by this point. Jumping down from the cab to open up the back of the truck I banged said elbow against the edge of the drivers door and nearly went into orbit. I was in such pain that I could hardly speak and I obviously looked like I was about to burst into tears. 

Unaware of my injury the policeman seemed strangely affected by my distress and as we opened the two rear van doors he asked what was inside.

"Everything I own in the bloody world," I sniffed.

Leaning against a veritable mountain of furniture, the musket was on open display - but the copper was more interested in my attempts to wipe my eyes free of tears.

"You havin' to come back cos of Brexit?" he enquired sympathetically.

I nodded. In way too much pain to elaborate further.

The musket began to topple over. The copper reached in and righted it. Together we closed and locked the vehicle up again.

"Well I'm sorry for 'ow it's all turned out mate, but anyway welcome 'ome", he said as he waved us on.

I laughed with relief for a good five miles. Hell I'm still laughing now. 

And so after a week and a bit of sofa surfing we have finally settled, at last, in the The Peoples Republic of Pembrokeshire, and I've got to be honest, It's well lush - as the locals say.

The place is remarkably sophisticated. They have this thing called Kahh Pet, where you don't have to wear your boots around the house and TV where, get this…you can freeze what you are watching and even make it go backwards… I know, right! Wonders will never cease.

Despite all the distractions presented by a return to civilisation I hope to be able to squeeze out a few actual wargaming posts in 2020 - so hold on in there just a bit longer if you can.

Finally, even though it's a bit late - the Current Mrs Broom and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Kwanza  / Festivus / Whatevermus, and a great new year. 


Monday, 2 December 2019

The Joy Of Hex

I was just about to dismantle the aerial and switch off the transmitter for the final time when I remembered I'd promised to give a big shout out to Kostas at Deepcut Studios.

In the last few days the poor bugger has had to deal with the most difficult and indecisive customer in the world, namely…moi, while producing and delivering a bespoke quality product in a very limited time frame.

By way of an explanation this current period of enforced wargaming celibacy has given me pause to consider what aspects of gaming actually now appeal to me and to realise that over time my tastes have surprisingly changed. Simple elegant rules are now definitely "in" (since I find them usually more fun to play) and overly complex model railway terrain is for some reason now "out".

Like many folks I've gone through lots of different gaming surface options over the years, from home made battle boards in MDF to styrofoam blocks and a dozen other hybrids in between. I thought I'd found my ideal system with the Hexon product featured in my earlier posts but space has always been at a premium wherever I've lived and ease of setting up and putting away still play a big part in any systems suitability. Hexon's great - but it doesn't look so good without the usual flock on it (which I've been forced to shy away from since  it seems to irritate my skin).

Like the eternal search for the perfect set of rules I had begun to despair that I'd ever find anything that would really "do it for me" and I was still despairing when my brief but intense flirtation with FK&P introduced me to the "battle mat". 

Now - I took an early dislike to the FK&P's battle mat squares, (don't ask me why - I couldn't give you an answer that makes a lick of sense) but the mat itself was a revelation; no flock, easy to roll out  and it even had an interesting photo realistic impression of texture. The Sea scape mat that followed it for my privateering campaign only reinforced my impression that this was the direction I should be going in. 

Having previously said that I hope to continue my alternate history ECW campaign and also have a bash at Norms Tigers at Minsk next year I realised I needed more of the same - but with hexes - hence this posts title.

So back to the opening paragraph. After numerous size revisions that must have driven the design department nuts Deepcut studios have now sent me a 6ft x 4ft mat which is 15 hexes wide and 11 hexes deep. At 12cm between the flat sides they are a little bigger than the Hexon hexes I've used to date, but that's no bad thing, and I've snuck in an extra row or two from the standard C&C board in the process.

I know a lot of people are turned off by the whole hex / square, is it a board game or a war-game aspect, but as you can see from the picture the lines are done in grey and practically vanish from a couple of feet away. Its whatever floats your boat I s'pose.

So anyway…

Cheers Kostas! Great customer service mate!

<<muffled voice>>

"Right that's that done. Now where's that ruddy off switch? Oh there it…"


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