Monday, 26 August 2019

The Wreck Of The Hesparus - Part 2

So much for my "I'm a method war gamer" boasts…hah… here I am, one finger typing with a hook, stinking of high strength rum and wearing both an eye patch and a pirate hat made out of a copy of The Bugle. The things I do in the cause of authenticity you would not believe.

Okay then - here's a quick recap to save you going back a post or two to find out what the hell is going on. 

The good ship Hesparaus has foundered on shoals just off the Pulau Tanamassa island group and her very expensive cargo of Nutmeg and Cloves has begun to wash ashore on nearby islands. Desperate for a quick profit Captain Tully has taken the newly named Defiant and her still badly damaged escort the Welsingen into the area for a spot of beach coaming, unaware that other vessels similarly lured by the prospect of easy loot are also on their way.

Ever get that sinking feeling? The wreck of the Hesparus. Hazard to shipping and spewer of expensive cargo.

Closely following the G&G Treasure Islands scenario, I diced for the table corners upon which each ship would appear. With the wind set to blow from right to left across the game area it became immediately apparent that some vessels were going to be disadvantaged from the start.

Here's what the game area looked like:

Scenario Notes: 

I decided that islands could be searched any number of times as long as the appropriate action points were spent and the ships were in a position to do so. With that said there is only one cargo of Nutmeg and one of Cloves to actually be found.

The Welsingen - (rammed amidships by a Chinese merchantman in the last game and still leaking like a sieve) starts with one red activation dice since some of the crew are constantly manning the pumps to keep her afloat. Two areas of shallows sit adjacent to the gaps between the islands but the islands themselves have none around them - being volcanic plugs rising almost straight from the ocean floor. 

The order in which ships were activated was to be rolled for each turn, so this would mix things up a little.

The poor old Dolfijn with her square rigged sail set up entered the area in the worst possible position and will have to tack diagonally (and very slowly) towards the islands in the centre of the table. Her course will inevitably take her across the bows or stern of Tully's group who are slightly less disadvantaged due to their gaff rigged fore and aft facing sail.

The San Sebastian has a deep draught and even with a pilot on board needs to be careful - she is also carrying a decent number of ships boats.

It goes without saying that given her stats everyone needs to keep out of the way of the Shenzhou if they can.

The victory conditions on this one are simple. Essentially Tully needs to secure some of the washed up cargo in order to claim a win. If he goes back empty handed this time... there won't be a next time.

So, on to the game.

Nicholas Golightly, second mate, then first mate and now transferred to be acting Commander of the Welsingen leant in to the roll of the deck as the gusty winds cracked the canvas and sent spume flying over the bow. Along the horizon behind the approaching island chain black clouds signalled the possible start of the monsoon season. Despite the danger of being in charge of a barely sea worthy ship heading into a squall - Nicholas couldn't make up his mind if it was the sight of his boss, Captain Tully, shooting at sea birds from the poop deck of the nearby Defiant, or Mr Li the Han Chinese Bosun with his awful tattoos that scared him the most. The second son of a Gloucester curate he'd been barely cut out for a life at sea with the East India Company, let alone the reckless danger of enforced privateering. His contemplation of the ever watchful eye inked onto the back of Mr Li's shaven head was fortunately cut short by shouts from the lookouts. Sail ho!

The Welsingen and The Defiant. There's a prize for anyone who can spot the shot down seagulls. 

The ship that they'd spotted was the Dolfijn, fresh out of Singkep and notionally carrying a gaggle of Jesuits and a large consignment of bibles to missionaries on Bandu Palang. The two brothers that owned and operated the vessel, Daan and Bram Berkenbosch, were already regretting making a diversion towards Pulau Tanamassa (where there'd been rumours of a ships cargo being washed ashore) since there was clearly a storm coming and they were making little progress tacking against a head wind. With their look out apparently fast asleep it was Bram who first noticed the sails of the approaching Defiant and it was he who eventually sounded the alarm.

On the opposite side of the islands a similar situation was being played out between the Spanish merchant ship San Sebastian and the Chinese war junk Shenzhou.

The San Sebastian had been sent by Don Pedro de Heredia to salvage whatever crew or cargo they could find from the wreck site. Concerned that the San Sebastian did not end up on the rocks herself the Don had arranged for a local pilot to guide her through the treacherous shallows. The Captain of the San Sebastian, Jose Antonio Camacho - by his own admission the most handsome best dressed Captain in the Spice Islands, had come out on deck to better view a Chinese ship also apparently trying to  navigate through the same narrows. Stroking his pointy beard he stood at the bridge rail weighing up the gathering storm, his surly ill disciplined crew, and the sudden unwelcome arrival of potential competition.

With gusty winds straining the fabric of her sails the Shenzhou punched through the swell like a battering ram. Kai Chen, master of the vessel watched with satisfaction as his well drilled crew swiftly executed his order to turn towards the Spanish ship, their reward in this instance a ferocious scowl as he picked his teeth with a sliver of bamboo. The capture of a nice fat merchant ship would ensure he gained favour with Zheng Zhilong his fleets overlord.

The Shenzhou on the warpath. I thought about getting TCMB to sit in the background with an obvious "cob on" to replicate the gathering storm - but I wasn't brave enough to suggest it.

Closing on the struggling Dolfijn, Captain Tully sailed across her bow and tried a raking shot in the hopes of causing a crippling blow. Though two of the shots hit the target they did little observable damage and with the storm approaching he resolved to leave the brigantine for the Welsingen while he continued towards the islands and a potentially bigger prize. It would have been a miracle if the badly rolling Dofijn had managed to hit them in return, and though its crew tried, the miracle didn't happen.

On board the Welsingen a very nervous Nicholas Golightly gave a series of conflicting orders that caused his crew to become confused and the ship to lose headway. Falling astern of the Defiant the Welsingen scraped past the bow of the Dolfijn just in time for Bosun Li to coordinate the fire of their six starboard guns.

The Welsingen's at start red dice (to represent her lack of seaworthiness) was thrown to generate an action but produced a 1, resulting in an all at sea roll and a "garbled order" result that saw them have their course changed for them by an opponent.

Bosun Li "gives it the beans"

At such close range even a choppy swell couldn't prevent the Welsingen from scoring hits. With the Dolfijn's gunners still struggling to reload, the fire from the passing sloop caused serious damage. The Berkenbosch brothers were both seriously wounded by flying splinters which left a wailing gaggle of Jesuits and a small number of overawed junior ratings to work out how to respond.

The Dolfijn received a red damage dice and a roll on the critical hit table that indicated her Captain  - (in this case Captain's) was a casualty.

On the other side of the island chain and making better progress with a favourable wind The San Sebastian and the Shenzhou were both heading at top speed for the same gap between the islands. Despite the risks inherent in the manoeuvre Captain Camacho lowered the boats they'd brought with them and ordered a large landing party to head for the main island to begin searching for any washed up cargo. Camacho had reasoned that he could double his chances of finding something by searching with the boats while scanning the islands from the merchantman as they sailed past.

The San Sebastian drops off a search party, the crews of which are shown here braving the rough swell unaware that their craft are constructed solely from miliput. Now there's brave.

In an effort to intimidate the speeding merchantman, Kai Chen ordered the Shenzhou's exotic collection of cannon to be fired - certain that his fearsome reputation would cause the Spaniard to immediately strike their colours in terror. Unfortunately Captain Camacho had yet to determine if the junk was actually a threat and was now too preoccupied with deploying his boats to notice its wildly off the mark shots.

The San Sebastian receives a red dice because of the manpower sent off in the boats.

Guns were fired. Colours were not struck.

Kai Chen flew into a terrible rage at the "round eye's" lack of respect and beat upon a nearby crewman to vent his spleen.

Back on the Welsingen young Golightly ran to the stern and stared across the narrow gap as the wounded Dolfijn crawled past. It was not a good place to be standing. Only three of the Dutch brigantine's guns were loaded but receiving no orders from up top the gun crews let rip on their own accord. Cannon balls tore through the retreating Welsingen from stem to stern, smashing the cramped rear cabin and throwing Golightly to the foot of the mainmast where he lay for a while, semi conscious. As men tended to their Commander, Bosun Li ordered the ships carpenter below for a damage assessment.

The Dolfijn's close range raking shot added a second red die to the Welsingen's action generating pool and caused a critical hit which also spookily saw the Captain of the vessel incapacitated.

Revenge of the Dolfijn

Riding the gusty wind the San Sebastian beat the Shenzhou to the gap between the islands but found no evidence of the missing cargo. Despite the pilots best efforts her hull juddered and the crew came close to panic as the vessels keel scraped over an unseen sand bank.

Glad to have reached dry land before the Chinese vessel got too close the crew of the San Sebastian's boats dragged them above the line of the crashing waves and began to search. Though they poked around in caves and scrambled over rocks they found little of value.

The San Sebastian actually ran over the corner of a shallow area and was only saved from grounding damage by the pilot's die modifier. The boat crews used two action points to search the shoreline but managed to only roll two 3's - which meant on the finding treasure table they found nowt. 

During the Welsingen's turn a damage repair team removed the second red dice (for 2 action points) while she managed over the next few go's to avoid sailing off the board edge by the shipboard equivalent of a hand brake turn.

With no one seemingly in charge and the helmsman injured the Dolfijn's bow swung around into the wind and once "in irons" all forward momentum bled away. Chaos ensued.

Another bad action roll led to an all at sea table result of "garbled orders". Just like the Welsingen the Dolfijn's heading was adjusted to her disadvantage by an opponent.

Escaping from the sand bank the San Sebastian spotted several floating casks, which when dragged aboard with boat hooks were found to contain the wrecked ships rum ration. Rioting quickly broke out. Captain Camacho's pistols proved unable to contain the disorder and his junior officers and men quickly began helping themselves.

The unfortunate Spanish ship had another stab at searching for cargo as she swung around the centre island - and thereby found the rum. The disorder on board causes the ship to receive a second red dice, making it 2 out of 3 and all self imposed!

Intent on catching the swifter than anticipated merchant the Shenzhou navigated her way through the gap between the islands where Kai Chen's eagle eyed men noticed a dozen or more crates bobbing in the swell. A swiftly cast net ensnared the passing cargo which when hauled in turned out to be a shed load* of Nutmeg. A result, but not the one Kai Chen been looking for.

Situation update: The Welsingen (bottom left) does a handbrake turn, the San Sebastian (centre) sails blindly forward with its crew fighting over the rum they've found. Meanwhile the Shenzhou (between the islands) snares some of the cargo everyone else is supposed to be looking for and the Dolfijn begs for help

The Defiant, so far little more than an observer of all these shenanigans closed quickly on the western most island but a continual scan of the coastline revealed nothing. Captain Tully began to worry that the rumours of washed up cargo may have been false and that the coming storm would deny him the opportunity to search the other islets.

On board the Dolfijn things went from bad to worse. The Jesuits - land lubbers to a man, had become frightened by the approaching bad weather, and insisted that the Dolfijn's junior officers seek assistance from the handsome Chinese Merchantman closing from the bow.

A rare one this. Because the Dolfijn's commander was hors de combat all quality rolls are automatically reduced by one. Desperate to get them out of their current fix I rolled all three action dice (including the two reds the vessel was burdened with) and with the reds produced two 1's - which meant that the vessel had to make a roll on the "all at sea" table. Another 1 was subsequently rolled which meant that the Dutch ship had to strike her colours since the nearest other ship was a potential enemy. Flukey - but fun.

The Dolfijn strikes her colours.

The crews of the little boats left by the San Sebastian had looked everywhere but just as they were about to give up and row back out to sea they came upon a group of very friendly natives who invited them to dinner…

Yup you guessed it, the poor buggers rolled the canibalism option while making a fresh search attempt. Mmmm… long pig… yum yum.

The Shenzhou, going too fast to avoid the shallows, crossed them without a scratch, Kai Chen excitedly giving orders to steer for the small brigantine lying dead ahead, which was signalling it needed help. Suspecting a trap Chen ordered all of his fiercest warriors to be ready for a dust up.

The Welsingen having completed its nautical hand brake turn headed straight for the San Sebastian with a view to putting in a few shots and keeping her from further searches of the coast. As the sloop closed they could tell that something was very amiss on board her when a well dressed chap leapt over the side and began swimming directly towards them.

With two self inflicted red dice I made the decision to roll them and use the action points to clear one of them back to white. The two red dice came up as 1's just like the Dolfijn, and equally spooky was another 1 on the "all at sea" table meaning the San Sebastian also had to strike because the closest vessel to her was an adversary.

The crew of the Welsingen dragged the sodden Spaniard from the briny and threw grappling hooks up onto the merchantman as they slid alongside. Mr Li led a group of Tamils onto the San Sebastians's deck expecting some fierce hand to hand fighting, but to his surprise found the ships crew involved in a mass brawl that required crowd control rather than any roughhousing. Herding them together at pistol point on the quarter deck he used his patchy Spanish to locate the ships surgeon  then bid him inspect the still groggy Golightly who'd been dragged on board. While the European junior officers conferred, Mr Li and a small number of select sailors slipped away. When his absence was finally noticed the Welsingen was discovered to have cast off and begun sailing west. Mr Li it seemed had resolved to become self employed.

The San Sebastian crew - too sozzled to resist.

On board the Defiant, Captain Tully noticed the Welsingen sailing off to the west and was very annoyed when it failed to respond to his signals to rejoin him. It was as he ordered the schooner to come about and give chase that several wooden crates were seen lodged upon the rocks to port. Raising sail to slow down he experienced a flush of relief as the first was brought aboard and found to contain sack after sack of very expensive cloves.

Responding to the Dolfijn's signals for help the Shenzhou ground alongside the brigantine and fifty angry Chinese sailors leapt aboard armed with a random array of nasty edged weapons. The Jesuits hurried to greet them in the name of the saviour, but somehow something got lost in translation. Bad things happened. Lots and lots of bad things.

The Dolfijn succumbs. Parental Advisory: The above picture may contain pixels of  bad men doing bad things.

Anywhoo… I called the game at this point. Tully had his cargo, and though the Welsingen had now seemingly gone rogue young Golightly had managed to seize the very substantial San Sebastian. Overall I considered it a win for the good (bad) guys.

The whole shemozzle took four hours to play, and even though it was only me playing it on my tod it was a hoot. I'm sure there can't be many naval rule sets out there that allow for drunkeness and canibalism! Yeah i'm looking at you, Sails of Glory.

TTFN - and a special hearty YARRR to my new blog following shipmates.

* Shed Load - An ancient Chinese unit of volume.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Wreck Of The Hesparus - Part 1

I know, I know, Longfellow… and written over two hundred years too late, but since it formed the inspiration (along with the G&G treasure island scenario) for my latest privateering game I had to go with it.

If you recall, and God knows I'm having enough trouble with recalling anything these days, the good Captain Tully had previously managed to free his former crew mates from incarceration in a Dutch prison on an island in the Bandanak chain. While making good his escape a lucky shot from a pursuing Dutch frigate had smashed his vessel's rudder and turned his cabin into something of an open air balcony.

Helpfully for the narrative - a great deal of jury rigging and a bit of luck with the weather ensured that the Salamander eventually got back to Tully's secret island base. Upon arrival they found that the sloop Welsingen that'd been rammed amidships in the same adventure had made it back ahead of them and now lay beached in a nearby cove so that her structural damage could be assessed. Unfortunately returning first doesn't always confer an advantage and Captain Edgar De Groot the Welsingen's master had been the most senior person present when Edward Napier and the men from the East India Company had turned up to collect a greatly anticipated boat load of booty.

Discovering zero loot and a broken ship Napier was not a happy bunny.

De Groot's cause of death was recorded in the ships log as "lead poisoning" - which in a convoluted way was true, the lead having been introduced into his body by means of Napier's pistol.

The eventual return of the captives; men who could have spilled the beans about the East India Companies  private interdiction of Dutch commerce went someway to buying Tully more time, but the Captain was left in no doubt that a "big score" was going to be required very soon if he was not to follow in De Groot's footsteps.

Accepting that their little harbour was not going to be able to make the major repairs his ship needed  Tully took two of the four sacks of silver he'd held back from the Gouden Gans haul and set off to impose himself on the Governor of the small Spanish port at Tidore Island. Don Pedro de Heredia still owed him a favour or two and if there was ever a time to call some of them in - it was now.

The Salamander returned to the Welsingen after a month of being laid up, fully replenished, re armed and bearing a newly gilded plaque with the name Defiant on it in a possibly vain effort to change her identity.

Essentially the same ship model as the Salamander the Defiant now has the "Derring-do & Falconettes" trait - while losing her original "Veteran NCO's" benefit. Casualties and the sharing of senior staff with the Welsingen were my reason for removing the NCO's while the "Derring-do" trait comes from a more experienced crew who I expect are more prepared to leap aboard another vessel regardless of the odds. The "Falconettes" are a direct replacement for the deck sweeping carronades available in G&G but which had not yet been invented in this time period. Light guns on pintle mounts firing a nasty version of buckshot, the falconettes would be most effective in clearing an enemy vessels deck.

In Tully's absence the Welsingen had been re floated and placed under the command of his newly minted first officer Nicholas Golightly. Though the crew had done as much as they could the little sloop continued to leak like a sieve wouldn't hold a course and had to have the pumps constantly manned just to keep a bit of freeboard above the swell. Tully didn't want to be held back by her but he'd heard a rumour that a merchant ship had run aground off Pulau Tanamassa, scattering a valuable cargo of Nutmeg and Cloves across the beaches of the nearby islands. If the rumour was true it would be an easy way to satisfy his contract with Napier and the sloop's hold, leaky or not, would come in useful.

Life of course is never that easy and rumours have a way of spreading quickly. As the Defiant and the Welsingen set off other crews in other ports were also responding to the lure of easy money, among those also heading for Pulau Tanamassa are:

The San Sebastian.

A Spanish merchantman who has engaged a pilot to help them steer through any shoals that might prove problematic with her deep draught - she is also a "Lucky" ship - allowing the vessel to roll twice and pick the least worst result on the critical damage table.

The San Sebastian

Then there is the Dolfijn a Dutch Brigantine crewed by independent traders hoping to make a quick profit.

The Dolfijn

Her square rigged sail layout can be disadvantageous in some wind conditions but she has a number of rail mounted defensive falconettes and her hull has been reinforced with strong timbers - making her very resilient to damage.

Unknown to the Europeans, word of the sinking had also reached a group of nearby Chinese pirates who've sent one of their larger vessels to see if there is anything worth salvaging.

The Shenzhou

The Shenzhou is a bruiser, her crews reputation for savagery is "Intimidating" to other vessels and her Captain's penchant for unnecessary violence will cause any nearby merchantmen to simply strike their colours rather than put up a fight. As if that wasn't enough her "Reinforced hull" means she's built like a tank and the "Swashbucklers" trait gives positive dice modifiers to her crew if they ever have to engage in a boarding action.

In the interests of brevity (I know, right) I've confined this post to a description of the potential protagonists - but I'll report on the actual battle (fought today) in a couple of days time when the inter webz allow, so get your water wings ready.


Monday, 12 August 2019

The Postwoman Always Rings Twice

Given that there are several people anxious to come and look at our house with a view to purchasing it come and have a gawp at the kind of houses English people live in, I've had to push back my planned gaming session for a few days and consign myself to the life of an exotic zoo exhibit instead. Apparently TCMB thinks that having all my toy soldiers out on the kitchen table will excite unfavourable comment and impede the sales process somehow. 


Anywhoo… Having waited for several weeks for my latest Peter Pig order to be dropped unregarded into a baking hot tin post box so that it can melt into an amorphous blob I had time to consider how unlucky I've been with post people over the years. Growing up in a world before Amazon delivered shiny and exciting things to my door on a daily basis, the post seemed to comprise nothing but bills bills bills, my dislike of same being generously extended to the unfortunate buggers that delivered them. 

You'll no doubt be pleased to know that this convenient bout of reflection has transformed into a meandering tale of French life that will in part conceal the almost total absence of gaming material that you probably came here looking for.


I suppose I should start, if start I must, back in the UK when TCMB and I were newly minted members  of the nationwide early medieval re enactment group Regia Anglorum. 

Having set up our own Worcestershire sub group Tha Wireceastreshire Londfyrd (trips off the tongue doesn't it) we found ourselves part of a brief Regia wide effort to better represent the clergy from the period. Though there was no way yours truly was going to dress up as a ruddy monk (bear in mind I'd signed up to hit people with things) we were happy enough to obtain ecclesiastical items for those that were. We quickly found two book sized ex Christian Orthdox church icon type paintings on wood panels which looked right and which we promptly donated. What I had not realised was that TCMB had also located and purchased a consignment of Frankincense resin, the crystals of which, it was later explained to me, would be burnt by the groups Abbot as part of his rituals. Now the resin gives off a very distinctive odour and if for research purposes you wish to know what that it's like nip into a Catholic church and have a good sniff. You'll find they still use the same stuff today.

Now where was I?

Oh yes Postmen.

In the summer of '07 or thereabouts (so before we moved to France) we had a new Postman. Chipper little sod he was. Too lazy to walk around and use our garden path he would routinely jump the 2ft high division between plots and cross my lawn to stuff bills and unwanted pizza express leaflets through the letterbox. With a set of expensive none post office issue coconut like earphones permanently clamped to his head he would stick his thumb up in an insouciant acknowledgement of my impotent rage at such trespass then jump in his van and reverse over my magnolia bush (and no that's not a metaphor).

The only thing I had to fight this annoying young oik with was our letter box itself, a bear trap of a thing that would have taken a kiddies arm off at the elbow should they have been daft enough to insert one.

I often worked from home on a Thursday back then, and on one such occasion I saw the lads van screech into the cul de sac and knew that my opportunity to catch him and give him a piece of my mind had arrived. Consumed with righteous fury, I snatched open the front door determined to give him a lecture about using the path (God how middle class that sounds now) but my move unfortunately coincided with the young postie's attempt to stuff a slightly overlarge padded envelope through our bear trap letterbox.

Of course the inevitable happened. His attempt to pull the envelope back and my rapid opening of the door caused the thing to be caught and torn asunder. Twenty odd unmarked plastic bags of this stuff fell out.

Frankincense. Any resemblance to crack cocaine is purely coincidental.

To his credit he helped me pick them all up. With a knowing look of respect he returned to his van and once more reversed over the magnolia.

For some reason he was always extra polite to the wife after our encounter and studiously went out of his way to use the path.

And then we moved to France.

The house cattle shed we moved to had been purchased from an English woman whose attempt at property restoration had begun and ended with this:

Yes it's a wall mounted post box

The wall mounted post box positioned on the side of the house was a good one, but it had one fatal flaw…


This egregious use of a British product had naturally incurred the patriotic wrath of our local La Poste woman  Marie Noel (as in Christmas) and prior to our arrival she had communicated her disdain by stuffing it to the gunnels and beyond with every unwanted pizza leaflet she could find.

My first unintentional encounter with the lady was hampered as much by her conviction that I was responsible for the British postal abomination as my lack of French. Harsh words and gestures were used and as usual I got the wrong end of the stick. In an effort to build bridges I waited a couple of days and took the thing off the wall in order to move it to a position I judged to be more convenient for her. A weeks worth of further leaflets convinced me I was still in error. A third site was chosen and the box moved once more. Now she could literally pull up adjacent to it and lean out of her car window to deposit the post. Two days after this accommodation important letters were found lying in the slush near the barn door where they'd been thrown. Mmm. Still not right it seemed.

Sitting in the Merinchal post office car park (where we could get internet) an online expat forum eventually provided the answer. It seemed we needed one of these:

Another wall mounted post box…but better…because IT IS MADE IN FRANCE.

Yes it was still a wall mounted post box but this was clearly superior in every way because it had been MADE IN FRANCE. Now fairs fair, they are (unnoticed by me) universal here and since they posses the carrying capacity of an Elephant's scrotum can accommodate any kind of parcel or letter without undue stress to those tasked with an article's delivery.

I'm ashamed to say that two weeks of further passive aggressive postal antics broke me and despite my loudly proclaimed resolve that the bloody woman was just going to have to learn to live with what was there, I finally went out and got a French one.

I would contend that there's little in life more scary than a hard faced female French functionary. (Don't try saying that if you're eating a toffee by the way), so I dutifully avoided Marie Noel as much as I could. Letters had begun to be deposited correctly in the new box but there still seemed to be no softening of her hard faced visage as she whizzed through the village in her little yellow van.

A La Poste van - for any van spotters out there. Don't mock - it is possible that van spotting's a "thing." We shouldn't judge - we are nerdy war gamers after all.

And then the official letter arrived. It seemed to be about the post box. I was all set to go and torch the Mayor's office when TCMB managed to translate it for me. The letter was a hand written one from the Director of La Poste (no less) in far away Gueret (our regional admin centre) thanking me profusely for accommodating his postal operatives request to change the box.

I dare anyone to remain angry with an official who closes his letters with terms like "cordialement".

Two notes of interest. Firstly the stoney faced look is a thing amongst older French people who consider any outward show of public emotion (like smiling) puts them in danger of appearing simple and secondly a La Poste operatives job out here includes several other unofficial roles. In the Creuse for instance they will collect old people's prescriptions from the pharmacy and even post any stamped addressed letters you leave in your houses post box. 

A box of chocs was left in our post box for Marie Noel in the hope of mending fences. Unfortunately it inadvertently made matters worse.

Over night Marie Noel became my bestest friend in all the world. Not only did she stop her van to drop off the post she began to ignore the post box and bring it to the door. On one frosty morning I was busy eating my weetiflakes when the front door opened and she came in to the kitchen to drop the post off on the table. A tad intrusive I'm sure you'll agree - but apparently not uncommon in this land of unlocked doors and near zero crime.

Now in the normal course of events you could go a week here and see no one, so on the morning I emerged naked from the downstairs shower and went looking for the towel I'd stupidly left on the kitchen table I'm not sure who was more shocked, Marie Noel or I.

She regarded me for a moment, slack jawed, post in hand.

"It was a cold shower," I muttered, snatching up the towel to hide what was left of my dignity.

Marie Noel never came in to our house again uninvited. Her transfer to the neighbouring Croqc office came through within the month.

I live in hope that the Welsh postal service, should we ever get there, will be less problematic.


Saturday, 3 August 2019

Cursed To Wander The Earth


There'll be a photo of some miniatures or something at the end as a sort of payoff, if you make it that far. 


I think it was Forrest Gump that once famously said, "Life is like a box of chocolates," and I suspect he may have been onto something. Regrettably every time I get to dip my hand into the cosmic box of Quality Street though I find there's only the crappy praline ones left.

As evidence, let's jump back to 1978 for a moment where a spotty and hormonally driven young JBM was invited to spend a dinner hour investigating the wonders of the schools newly acquired Acorn computer. A bone achingly dull forty minutes watching two nerds type a load of unintelligible crap into its keyboard ended when a weetabix like object was made to move from left to right on a small strobing black and white screen. C DOS RUN. RUN DOS RUN. one of them cackled. They were very excited. They said personal computers were the future. 


Obviously I spent no more precious dinner hours with that pair of losers, not when the girls school was just across the sports field and I could spend my time drooling over them instead. Computers are the future…pah.

And so to 1984. A young newly married JBM with no money to speak of but a whole rake of those new credit card thingies - convinced by the local Atlantis Electrical salesman that Betamax video recorders were the way to go. VHS was doomed he said. I agreed with him. It was all about the picture quality. 


2014/15 now here's a classic. TCMB is told by her medical team that she's been cured of a life changing illness. I'd been forced to give up gainful employment to become her carer so in the light of such wonderful news we both decided that with the kids gone it was time to actually do something exciting with the rest of our lives. Gorging ourselves on a diet of aspirational daytime lifestyle TV we bought a cattle shed in France and buggered off to live in it….

Which was when we learned that TCMB had not actually been cured of her life changing illness and while her health was actually going down hill again we had burnt all our bridges to go and live in a freezing cold crap hole. 

Oh yes… and then came the referendum. 

Fortunately, unlike an awful lot of expats who moved to Europe and then playfully ignored the boring legal requirements of living there we endured the expensive and kafkaesque nightmare of obtaining health insurance, a social security number, a carte de sejour and so on. Indeed while they were toddling around in their right hand drive UK plated motability cars doing a bit of work on the black for cash as master builders (I believe the diploma is handed out on the ferry at some point) TCMB was actually getting fixed in French hospitals with the costs being covered by reciprocal arrangements between France and the UK.

Now, despite the illusion of European solidarity the French have always done what they ruddy well like, (I admire that about them) ignoring overall European rulings when it doesn't suit them and suffering with a Gallic shrug of indifference any court inflicted admonishments - should matters fail to get kicked into the long grass as usual. While the Spanish and others have done as much as they can to protect their current UK expat populations against Brexit, the French, as usual, have gone their own way, forcing TCMB and I to think the previously unthinkable.

Even though Britain is still currently in the EU (and I checked just now… just in case) our French driving license applications have been frozen in admin limbo for nearly two years, our ability to work legally as auto entrepreneurs was recently removed and we are now advised that post Brexit any of the cards and documentation we took so much trouble to obtain will no longer be valid. 

Naturally we are cordially invited to reapply for all these items post Brexit (along with all the dickheads who never bothered in the first place and seemingly haven't suffered for it) but the real killer (no pun intended) is the end of the reciprocal health care arrangements. TCMB still needs health care and potentially further surgery - something the medical insurance people have advised us we might shortly be priced out of.

In an effort to shake off the curse of the Betamax, TCMB and I launched "Operation Dynamo", an exercise that (to my youngest sons well disguised horror - bless him) saw us put our house up for sale with the promise of an eventual return to the UK. To everyone's surprise (not least mine) we have just accepted an offer on the place (after only five days on the market)  and now it's "go time" as I'm told our American cousins say. The next few months will be busy busy busy. A time in which blogging and gaming will have to take a back seat, so apologies in advance for that.

Other than ending up in a one bedroom flat above a chip shop in Abergavenny, or working none stop on a zero hours contract building Spitfires for Boris, normal service will eventually be resumed.

Hopefully some of you will continue to hang on in there.

Here's the promised piccies...

A 6cm base width group of Dux Bellorum ordinary warriors
A 6cm base width group of noble warriors (with home made standard)