Saturday, 15 February 2020

Going Around The Bend

In my last post I raved on about a railway modelling "stream bed" product that I thought could be used in wargaming. 

I'd already blasted out a metre or so when one of my more astute readers asked me how I was going to create river bends given that the stuff came out of the packet in one long straight roll.



Forgot about the corners.

After a bit of experimentation I ended up using the Terry's Chocolate Orange approach in which I took cheese wedge chunks out of a straight bit then glued them together on the backing board. As Eric used to say about little Ern's hairpiece… you can barely see the join. 

My curves are designed to transition from one flat edge of a hex to another so are relatively gentle, however I'm pretty sure with a bit more time and patience I could produce a longer fairly wriggly affair in the same manner.

You can just about see the faint grey hex lines - if you stare at the picture for 20 mins or so.

While on the subject of terrain, I'd resigned myself to making another load of road sections too when I came across this little beauty - also in the railway modelling section of ebay. 

6mm "gentleman with halberd" for scale comparison

Yeah, it's a roll of cork for putting under track. The more I looked at the texture the more I thought…dirt road. 

For ten quid I purchased 10m of the stuff and for reference purposes the one in the piccy is 3mm thick by 3.5cm wide. 

There are a variety of different sizes available and I'm pretty sure it can be jazzed up with a bit of flock on the edges etc. Certainly a cheap way of doing roads.

Having taken some off the roll I was disappointed to see that it kept wanting to curl. This could have been solved by gluing it to a base board of course but since I didn't want the depth of the road to be any thicker I pressed it flat and put a bit of sellotape on the back. It's remained flat for a week now so I think I might have solved the problem.

Anywhoo I'm offski. My Peter Pig Vikings arrived yesterday and they aren't going to base coat themselves. 


Thursday, 30 January 2020

Scene It All Before

Having searched my new house high and low I have to conclude that in some foreign barn there remains a cardboard box that will be forever England. Unfortunately said box contains a proportion of my wargaming scenery. 

To wilfully misquote master Schwarzenneger in Predator - it apparently never made it to the chopper.

This means that having now established myself in the worlds smallest man cave, my first wargaming mission is to replace a load of stream and road tiles - well it is if I'm to get any kind of game onto a table sometime soon.

Fortunately here in the land of kah pet and central heating I can order a veritable cornucopia of scenic goodies via high speed broadband and have it delivered for next to nowt at the mere click of a mouse.   (By the way remind me to tell you how in the early days of the inter web I bought several Series 3 Land Rovers one afternoon by mistake - all via a mere and very careless click of a mouse).

Sitting outside Merinchal post office poncing off their internet and waiting two weeks for a potential delivery at extortionate cost already seems so long ago now.

Ahh happy days.

Anywhoo the packet pictured below duly arrived by drone (unfortunately not the flying sort).

I'm posting about it because I'd not come across the stuff before and initially only ordered the one in case it was crap; a thought the terrain cognoscenti amongst you may also have inadvisably harboured.

It comes on a long length (120cm) of "stiffened" paper and in its 'just out of the packet' state is way too delicate for gaming usage. With that said, stick it down on lengths of 2mm plastic card, spray it with matt varnish as a fixative for all the grit, add a ribbon of that fake water stuff and…


Tah darr! I give you the Insta Stream.

I've done this one as test piece and since I have a need for river bends, fords, etc I've now placed an order for more. If all goes well they will form a conga line of 24cm lengths across my hexed terrain mat and should serve okay for my chosen 6mm and 15mm games.

The products paper backing can be easily cut with scissors by the way, and the river tile in the piccy above is 24cm long and 7.5cm wide, should some sense of scale be required.

Thankfully all my 6mm ECW buildings made it across La Manche in a separate container so that's saved a few quid and a whole lot of painting - as The Current Mrs Broom (or Mrs Glass Half Full as she should be called), was only to keen to point out.

Ruddy optimists and their damned happy go lucky outlook…



Wednesday, 1 January 2020

The History Gene

I was putting the last of my books up in the loft yesterday when this little gem escaped from its box and clonked me on the head.

It's a great book - (published in 1958) and for some reason it contains lots of detail that seems to have been lost or glossed over in later more widely published tomes. If you haven't got it already and "what if's" like Sealion intrigue you, its well worth acquiring for reference purposes.

Its author, Ronald Wheatley and I share the same surname and perhaps it was that which set me off thinking about something that's been bugging me for years, namely, why am I so damned interested in military history? I mean why not football or even ruddy ice skating for that matter? Why am I morbidly scared of heights when in 56 years I've never fallen off anything higher than a garden wall?

Then there's Geography. Whenever I've been free to choose a UK holiday destination its always been south or preferably west and never north or east. Gentle hills and woodland are much more appealing to me than equally splendid mountain or moor, but why is that? Could it be that we are all "hard wired" to some degree with certain genetically inherited ancestral preferences?

Fanciful stuff I'm sure you'll agree, but my direct male family line has had (disappointingly) no record of military service and has never had an interest in such matters as far as I can tell. Motorbikes and architecture yes… history and military stuff, nope. So could this obsession of mine have been spurred by nature rather than nurture? 

As a quick for instance. When I took up English Civil War reenactment I had to choose between joining a Royalist or a Parliamentarian Regiment and though leftward leaning and pro parliament in my current political sympathies I felt a strong pull to the Royalist camp for some strange reason.

Two year after joining Sir William Pennyman's Regiment of Foote (Royalist) I discovered this chap - who in 1644 took over Sir John Redman's Regiment, shares my surname, and comes from an area where elements of my family are known to have originated. I'm tracing family trees at the moment so I may find out if he's some sort of relation (if records go back that far). From a practical point of view it'd be good to be able to say, "sorry I've just bought another batch of Baccus 6mm musketeers love but, I can't help it, its genetic. Blame Thomas!"

With thanks to the BCW website for the info.

Confusingly there was also a Captain Thomas Wheatley in Sir George Wentworth's Regiment of Foote (Royalist) who in a contemporary account apparently led a herd of cows through the siege lines around Pontefract castle in order to aide the defenders. One has to wonder how closely the siege was being prosecuted at the time!

Of course The more cynical realistic amongst you will no doubt point to a possible adolescent over exposure to 70's war films Airfix kits and dear old Battle Picture Library comics - as the true source of my military fixation. Thankfully, since we now live in a post truth world where published opinion need not suffer the burden of proof I think I shall stick to my more romantic notion of a distant English Civil War relative who as a result of his experiences has managed to code into my very DNA a deep aversion to the dangerous north!


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…"


<<Background static>>

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Election Special - Let's Get Br EGG sit Done.

It could be me - but I suspect that Conservative central office have found a new way to subliminally influence the electorate.

Allow me to introduce the Boris Johnson egg - discovered by TCMB this very morn.

The Bozza Egg. An uncanny resemblance I'm sure you'll agree.

Disproving the commonly held misconception that revenge is a dish best served cold I shall be taking a tea spoon to Bozza's well cooked noggin on the morrow - with some toast soldiers.

Naturally - and despite their so called restraining order - I'll be referring this matter to the Electoral Commission, along with a picture of a potato that looks suspiciously like Michael Gove.

Are the politicians tampering with our comestibles…?

I think we should be told.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

The End Of The World As We Know It

Yup - the end of the world as we know it - in which I wax lyrical about moving house, gaming projects for next year and my pivotal role in the French Nutella riots of 2018.

France - The Long Goodbye.

The first rule of fight club is that nobody talks about fight club. The first rule about selling your house in the Creuse is that nobody ever sells their house. It's a given. If you come out here thinking you'll rebuild something and make a killing you are in for a massive disappointment. Add a swimming pool and a helipad and the locals still see it (and value it) as the barn or cowshed it used to be. In fact they see it as having slightly less value than the barn or the cowshed it used to be - since any cows they reintroduce after purchase might well drown in the swimming pool. C'est la vie.

Given these "facts" you'll understand it came as quite a surprise when after only 24hrs of putting our house on the market an eager middle aged couple from Normandy booked a rendezvous to view and then offered us the full asking price. We were pretty stunned and hurriedly began looking for new digs back in the old country. A long list of potential properties in Wales was quickly compiled and hotels, ferries, and viewings duly booked. Emails whizzed back and forth between the purchasing couple and us culminating on the day before we due to leave for Wales with them sending us a series of photographs of their donkeys, who they claimed were very excited about their forthcoming move to our field.

Now a bit of French law explanation is required here - but I'll tone it down a bit for everyone's sake. House buying over here is a two part process. The buyer makes you an offer and if you agree to it you provide them with a series of house diagnostics compiled by the local authorities (presence of asbestos. termites etc etc). A contract is signed by both parties and the buyers, who have to lodge ten percent of the asking price with a shared solicitor, then have ten days in which they can change their minds and pull out without losing their money. If they pull out after this point their deposit becomes yours. Following this signing there is a lot more fiddle faffling with local farmers who might want to make their own offer on the land - followed eventually by a final exchange of contracts and transfer of money. Job done - usually in three months.

The morning after we had the donkey pics we were packing the car to head for Dieppe when a text came through from the buyers. They'd decided not to buy. No explanation; they were just out. Since we still had one more report on the house to get finalised nothing had been signed - so we were stuffed.

Despite this huge disappointment and not to mention the expenditure, TCMB got straight back on the horse as it were and re advertised the property. Given the statement I made in this posts first paragraph we were dumbfounded to get five more requests for viewings within a week. 

One of the requests was from an older couple in Morbihan (Brittany) who wanted to see the house asap. They told us they would be coming down in their motorhome (it's a 7 hour journey) and we agreed they could come and have a look on the Friday which was four days away. Imagine our surprise when they turned up in the village the very next morning.

Somewhat taken aback we let them have a look around. While still on site they also offered us the full asking price.

A little questioning revealed that while they were shortly about to complete the sale of their house the deal on the property they had been buying to replace it had fallen through. Because they didn't relish the prospect of spending the winter in a motor home they wondered if we would consider moving out in October so that they could rent our place while the purchase process was completed during the following month?

Partially because my spider sense started tingling and partially because the whole moving from one country to another thing was already complex enough as it was I said no... but as a compromise I promised they could bring their furniture down and store it in our barn for free when we got a little nearer to the finish line.

They stayed in the village for the next three days and told the neighbours they were going to be moving in very soon. Back and forth they came, tape measures in hand. Solely into biologique foods (which is a definite form of intellectual snobbery in France) the Suirat's (which I still keep reading as "sewer rats") refused every offer of tea or coffee and seemed to exist on a diet of lentils, mung beans, and their own intensity.

Of course for us it was a question of once bitten twice shy. Tentatively we rebooked house viewings in Wales, and, after the "sewer rats" had toddled off northward the emails reassuringly continued to flow back and forth, with pictures of her daughters wedding (I know, right) and other totally unrelated nonsense. We had it seems, become firm friends.

Once in Wales we viewed everything on our list and found nothing totally to our liking except the very last house - which we couldn't actually see the inside of until our scheduled appointment the following day. Filled with sudden joy at finding what looked like a real gem we had a lovely day on the nearby beach and at lunch time went to Tesco's in Cardigan to get a coffee.

Mwnt beach. Now there's lovely look you.

Which is when we had the text telling us the "sewer rats" were also backing out of the sale!

Apparently our bestest friend in all the world was not feeling well and no longer wished to move all the way down to the Creuse.

It somewhat spoiled our day.

The Current Mrs Broom - being the grown up that she is, refused to use the extensive list of profanities I provided for her, restricting herself to a simple text acknowledgement of the situation - followed by an instant re activation of our "house for sale" advert on the internet. Two new viewings were accepted that evening, timed for  a couple of days after returning to France.

With a very heavy heart we decided to cancel the next days visit to our dream home and TCMB was reaching for the phone to do so when it pinged with an incoming email. To our surprise it was the "sewer rats".

Our bestest friend in all the world claimed she had been in a fever and hadn't meant to pull out of the sale after all. She was VERY VERY sorry and hoped we could all just move past this and continue as though nothing had happened.  Oh and could we re visit the prospect of renting them the house for a month?


Forgiveness. Not my strong suit I'm afraid; but needs must when the devil vomits on your eiderdown as they say.

Frankly worried about losing what looked like our best bet for re settlement in the UK we provisionally agreed to their rental request armed with the knowledge that we now had two more potential purchasers coming around in the following week.

Conciliatory emails continued to fly thick and fast, the Wales house was viewed and money deposited to secure it. I can assure you that committing yourself to such an expensive enterprise when you doubt the sincerity of your own buyers is a worrying situation that I hope no one else has to ever go through.

The first new pair came to see the house a week after we returned. They were city folk from (relatively) near by Clermont Ferrand. We sat outside for a while and they picked grapes from our vines to munch in the sunshine. They made an offer the next day.

I accepted it immediately.

My email to the "sewer rats" calling off the sale was polite (despite myself) but short. They responded straight back. They were looking forward to coming down to our village on the 24th September with their furniture - which they'd be putting in our barn!

I checked the translation of my previous email several times but its message was pretty clear. Diplomatically I replied that, no, they couldn't bring their furniture to put in our barn, because we were no longer selling them our house. "Ding" came the instant reply. They were really looking forward to seeing us again on the 24th and would be bringing wine and cakes.

The emails went back and forth a further 8 times, my final one asking them what the "f**k did they not understand?" Each of my increasingly furious responses was matched by an instant nonsensical but loving reply filled with heart emoji's. Aaaargh.

I sat around outside our barn on the 24th with a very big stick. Unfortunately, or thankfully, depending on your viewpoint, they didn't show.

We later found out that anyone renting a property in France over the winter months cannot (by law) be evicted - even if they fail to pay any rent. Once the winter is over they would have been in residence long enough to claim the French equivalent of squatters rights.

I submit to you all that this was in fact a bullet well and truly dodged.

With all reports completed (and there's a whole extra story there about the septic tank which I will spare you) the new couple signed on the the 30th October and with their back out period now expired we are set to complete on the 10th December. I hope.

Trouble at T'Mill - Intermarche

And so on to less serious matters. During January 2018 I popped into the Aubusson branch of Intermarche to get TCMB a jar of Nutella (other chocolate and nut based spreads are available - so I'm told). It transpires that the French, like my darling wife, are mad for all things chocolate and after five years out here I've seen this particular product smeared on just about everything - well... nearly everything! I suppose there'll be a website for that somewhere.

I'd arrived that morning unaware that this was a critical moment in French retail, a critical moment in which I was destined to play a pivotal part.

Wandering idly towards the Nutella isle I noticed a small crowd had gathered, a small crowd muttering in excited agitation. One of the shops junior staff was putting up a sign which translated as - "today only, special discount."

Even from the back of the pack I could see that the price of a Nutella jar had been slashed from Euro 4,50 to Euro1,40.

What madness was this?

Their strap line on the pot claims - Nutella arouses your enthusiasm.

Recognising a "good thing" when I saw it I pushed through the stupefied throng and picked up two jars quick sharp.

A hand gripped my wrist, its owner apparently taking issue with my attempted "bulk" purchase.

Telling him to get lost in my halting French served only to reveal I was from perfidious Albion. Sacre Blue! One of the plastic jar's was knocked from my grip whereupon it cracked open on the floor.

People desperate to get a piece of the action pushed past my sparring partner and I, smearing the contents of the broken jar across the tiles like dog shit. A flustered store manager arrived to restore order but it was already too late. The crowd were angry. Hadn't he heard? Foreigners were taking their Nutella! The few individuals who like me had managed to get their mitts on two jars found themselves eagerly misidentified as "etranger" and berated by those only able to grab the one. Swearing became shoving which in turn became something far more ugly. I handed my remaining jar to a grateful old lady and rapidly made my exit.

The Gendarmerie managed to calm the riot that followed in under an hour but thanks to the interwebz the news was already out. Hordes of spread crazy paysan descended on local stores across the country seeking a similar deal. Many were terribly disappointed. Disappointment soon turned to violence.

For those seeking verification of such a tall tale I can only refer them to this contemporaneous BBC report… a link which I'm sure won't work unless you have better google foo than I. I'm crap at computers, me.

Of course you could always just google Nutella riot's I s'pose.

The shape of things to come?

With numerous back and forth trips now required across la Manche its going to be busy busy busy. Consequently I doubt there'll be much time left for blogging and certainly not for gaming.

Hopefully next year when some sort of "normality" has been re established I can pick things up where I left off before life got in the way.

During 2020 I would very much like:

1) To attempt to resurrect the Royalist cause in a second part to my original alternative civil war campaign, using Msr Foy's excellent Ramekin version of his C&C rules conversion.

2) Produce a 15mm Viking army to match my existing Saxons in some Dux Bellorum shenanigans.

3) Have a good old bash at Norms (frankly bloody excellent looking) Tigers at Minsk rules.

4) Find new uses for the Galleys and Galleons rule set that I've thoroughly enjoyed playing this year.

And Finally...

Given that this is likely to be my last post for this year - or maybe for ever if things don't work out so well on the other side, I'd like to thank everyone who has visited this blog and especially those who've bothered to leave the occasional comment. You are all, without exception, a witty, kind, inspirational bunch. The sort of people I've never managed to meet in real life. You'll never know how much your involvement has meant to a frankly lonely old cove in self imposed exile.

I wish you all peace and good fortune for the coming year.

All the best,