Friday, December 31, 2021

2021.. a review...

By way of assuring my reader that I really haven't shuffled off this mortal coil ... as we say every year... "here we go again"...😁

I'm still (still) not really a 'blowing the trumpet', 'review your triumphs', etc etc type of person (I leave that to the business corporate types I work with), but like my 'end of the year' review on the sailing blog it is kind of nice to cast my eyes over the year gone, and remind myself of the ups and (this year, mostly) downs.... and besides everyone else is doing the same thing...

So by way of a joining up of the threads, and a bringing to a close of the last year, let's push on...

First, how did I do against my expectations [clicky]?? Note: I never, ever, make 'resolutions', just 'set  expectations', and thus when I inevitably fail to meet them yet again, it is not too demoralising or depressing an event..

1/. Play more games..

    Major fail... there were two table top games in 2021 (c/w three in 2020, four in 2019, six in 2018, and eight in 2017) which is both atrocious and clearly a downwards trend; 
    ..but on the other hand DG and I did play 3 (possibly even 4?) games of online DBN/AWI using Battle Chronicler and exchanging moves via Dropbox.
    But all in all - still poor, I think...
2/. Try to keep up my painting efforts..
    I would say I did "OK" with this one - as is usual with me, my painting months are beginning and end of the sailing season, there's 200 points worth here which compares with 253 points in 2020... close, but no cigar... a definite fall off in painting efforts in the second half of the year though as ennui hit..

    On the other hand lots was painted and no one period dominated this year, which I think is excellent.. 

    • the Marlburian infantry were a continuation of a theme I started in 2019 as before that I hadn't painted anything in the period for several years..  keeps the project fresh and ongoing..
    • there was more ACW - two more regiments of foot join the ranks, but also some ships
    •  there was more ECW and as I expected the order from Steelfist [clicky] made up at least one of the regiments but despite looking lovely, having to attach pikes was a pain.. Peter Pig for me every time..  😀

    Date (click to go to post) Item description Period Make Scale Points Value/Total Pts
    Regiment Angoumois
    24@1 Pts for 24 Pts
    Sudan rebasing
    13@1 Pts for 13 Pts
    Iron Clad Miniatures
    Charles Chuchill's Regiment of Foot
    24@1 Pts for 24 Pts
    12/2/21 1st Battalion Virginia Infantry (Irish)
    ACW Newline 20mm 20@1 Pts for 20 Pts
    19/2/21 62nd Ohio Infantry
    ACW Newline 20mm 20@1 Pts for 20 Pts
    19/3/21 Earl of  Carnarvon's Regiment of Horse ECW Peter Pig
    15mm 8@2ts for 16 Pts
    Sir William Pennyman's regiment of Foote
    ECW Steel Fist
    15mm 24@1 Pts for 24 Pts
    23/5/21 WWII French rebasing WW2 n/a 15mm 43@1; 3@2 for 49 Pts
    . . . . . .
    Total: 200 points (I had 253 from 2020 to beat)
3/. complete the Sudan re-basing..
    It is done, done I say!! [clicky]
4/. continue reading more non-fiction... 
    If I did nothing else in 2021 I did read (just as well, as I wasn't blogging!)...  thank goodness for books...  
    Slightly down on last year, and the quality was not as good I thought, though there was one of my 10's in the list..  Barratt, Holland and Holmes take it this year (they sound like a firm of solicitors!) get the laurels this year, Cavaliers and Sicily in particular were very good.....
    For this coming year I already have Max Hastings' book on "Operation Pedestal" on my bedside table courtesy of Santa - can't wait - in fact it is next to go after I finish my Christmas Dickens

    Score (out of 10)
    Not finished yet..
    A recent publication that caught my eye the moment it was announced.. I was hoping for something a little more than this book actually delivered...  it's not a bad book, far from it, as a campaign resource it is beyond compare good, but it is also exceedingly dull comprising as it does mostly just a long list of numbers and dates - casualty returns, muster returns, dates and transports...  bit disappointed really, some of it was good, but I had hoped to find a little bit more about the human side... even the uniform illustrations were a little "meh"..
    After the Osprey on the Hessians, this was an order of magnitude different and better - brilliant book describing the background to the (re) formation of the light troops in the British army of the American War of Independence (after their successful use in the SYW and eventual decline/disbanding after the war completed) - their ideology, tactics, skills, weaponry, organisation and uniforms...  brilliant, and has made me reconsider a few elements of my AWI rules!
    A valiant effort to try and explain what is a HUGELY complex subject, and no I'm still not clear! So from what I can tell - every region of the Ottoman Empire had it's own unique troop types, the functions of which were specific to the area in which they were located (would have been fairly useless to have a largely cavalry force in the mountains for example), and the names of which are very complicated and difficult to remember... the Janissaries (coming to the end of their period of control) and Mamelukes appear, along with a host of peasant militia types, and a much smaller number of regulars trained in both traditional and modern methods... you'd need a book five or ten times the size to get a clear idea.. so a good attempt..  9 (for effort)
    I was late getting to this - stupidly. Bought it on the recommendation of one of the bloggerati (apologies, forget who) but it is fantastic and unashamedly recommended for people with an interest in the English Civil War(s) or indeed early black powder warfare...  aimed specifically at the Royalist army the book is in the form of a number of self contained chapters, almost essays, about various aspects of the army, so after a brief introduction to the background of the war there are chapters on infantry/cavalry/artillery/dragoons and logistics - in the second part he deals with some specific organisations and campaigns - I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Cornish foot (for me almost as stirring as the Wild Geese in French service), the Northern horse (I'd like to have gone out for a beer with them), the Irish army, sieges, even Royalist women...  I need to do some research to see if he did a similar book on Parliament as it would be a must have...  very good..
    Fantastic book - I have his book on Normandy in the "to read" pile and based on this one it has moved up a few places towards the top ..  so a concise (well I say concise, but it's actually 600 or 700 odd pages... I can honestly say it didn't seem that long!) but easily read book on what was the first Allied powers invasion into mainland Europe..   very much a learning exercise, that in planning teams was a success beyond all expectations..  good coverage on the naval cover, air cover (an absolute game changer and a significant input to the overall success of the campaign), the politic'ing and infighting between Patton (who I am sorry, and who despite his obvious skills as a battlefield commander, still comes across as a bit of a kn*b) and Montgomery (who could be prickly), and most of all the soldiers on the ground, that despite the Allied doctrine of "steel not flesh" were called on time and time again to attack well dug in, veteran and elite German forces simply because the terrain did not allow them to deploy their significant advantage in tanks and artillery..  fascinating book..  he touches on the Mafia angle (and who knows how significant that was??) but my overwhelming impression was of how quick the campaign was, how important the air cover was, how hard the infantry had to fight, and how well Alexander managed the campaign.
    Not sure where I saw this recommended, possibly David Crook's blog?? Either way, I am a huge admirer of the late Richard Holmes, I had the great good fortune to see him speak in person twice before his untimely death, and have always been a believer in the bottom up view of war that he championed..  his view is that the history of war is always best illustrated, and demonstrated, by the view of the individual...  in this book he sets out with four or five companions to actually ride the (exhausting) retreat of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 from Mons (the furthest they advanced) to the Marne. The book is chock full of anecdotes, personal reminisces and commentary from those long lost soldiers, but at it's centre is the horse - those they rode themselves, but most importantly those the BEF used in great numbers...  an excellent and sobering history of the BEF in 1914. Recommended.
5/. Salute and Colours...
    Hmmm..  so Salute was a possibility right up to the moment they rescheduled it to the week I was away in Cyprus .... "Mrs Current Steve the Wargamer, would you mind if we didn't go on our first foreign holiday in the sunshine in two years so I can go to Salute? You can come too if you like...." yeah..  indeed... and besides I preferred Cyprus as well, I'm not that mad..  
    Colours was cancelled.. rightly I think for the time the decision was being made...   
    Which left Warfare, but with DG otherwise occupied I came to the conclusion that the chat and his company was more than most of the enjoyment of the show so a long days travel to go on my own, and the disease risk, just didn't appeal to be honest..
6/. Tangmere visit do...  it has at least re-opened.. 
7/. Edgehill walk - unlikely but if we don't aim, we don't even shoot... (just call me Confucius the Wargamer....)
    ...ditto like most of the traveling/social based events it's slightly back burner'ish.. 
8/. Spend less time on Facebook - it's wasted time, and it's too easy to lose an hour that I could use doing something else
    ...funny how you change your focus when your horizon's close in to the computer/virtual reality - all the events/things I would have been trying to do were not happening, and shifted to virtual..  so Farcebok became a ways and means of keeping in touch rather than trite entertainment..
9/. Lose 3 stone - fed up being a fat bastard...
    ...I am a stone and a half'ish* lighter than I was this time last year.. all hail the 5:2.. there is still a long way to go...😏

    *it's post Christmas.. it may be a little less! 
10/. HMS Victory - been years since I last went ..
    ...yeah yeah.....  

...there you go... you may beg to differ, but as it is my blog I can once again report that all (achievable) targets and goals were achieved ...! Hurrah!! 

In summary?? I've got to say that on the personal front 2020 was not the best year, and neither was 2021..

Not in any priority at all..... work continues to gobble up increasing amounts of what used to be down time, and a change of work location has added an hour to my commute time; while delightful, and I wouldn't have it any other way, the family and grandson also deserve time; there were worries about COVID (all my close family except grandson are key workers)... and yes, I know and accept others have it far worse.... on the hobby front I'll say it was a poor year...  no Salute/Colours/Warfare with DG, a massive dose of wargamers block (pffft.. it happens..) but on the plus side a lot of good books..

There were 21 posts in 2021 including this one (c/w 32 posts in 2020, 49 in 2019, 35 in 2018, 45 in 2017, 58 in 2016, 69 in 2015, 68 in 2014, 84 in '13, 85, in '12) which is poor - the downward trend is back on again. I'm happy with Blogger, even like the new interface, I like to write and it suits my ordered mind, but I need creative inputs to prompt posts, and I wasn't feeling it in the second half 2021...

...apropos of absolutely nothing (I only have the number as I like to put reviews on the blog), 51 books were read in 2021, compared with 63  in '20, 55 in '19, 43 in '18, 52 in '17, 54 in '16, and 46 in '15 - despite distractions aplenty I had a hugely enjoyable reading year.. kind of interesting - I look to read a book a week on average..

Favourite books this year?

Fiction - these were my 'perfect 10's' of the year

Score (out of 10)
First book in the Dark Materials trilogy, re-reading it after some considerable time, and as a result of the (truly excellent) second series of the BBC television series having just finished. The re-read reminds me why I am in awe of Pullman's genius as a storyteller - he is right up there with Tolkien, Lewis and JK as far as I am concerned for his imaginative powers, and his ability to pull an entire alternative universe from his head...  so in this book we are first introduced to Lyra, the foundling child living with the scholars at Oxford university and we begin to discover her start in life, her parents (no spoilers for those that haven't read the books) and the alternative England that she lives in where people soul's are external to their body and in animal/bird form. This book deals almost solely with the search for "dust" a mystical substance that surrounds everyone and everything, but is not viewable under normal vision. It also introduces us to the Magisterium, a church like total authority that brings to mind the Catholic Church of the Inquisition period crossed with the 3rd Reich (!). Bring in armoured bears, witches, cliff ghasts, and an aeronaut with his own balloon facing off against gas engined airships and this is an awesome book..  my first 10+ of the year
Straight into the second book - Lyra's battle against the Authority continues and she gains an ally in the form of Will, a troubled young man from our world, who discovers an opening into a city in another world - this city is haunted by spectres that feed off the souls of any adults so the sole remaining inhabitants are children. They then discover about the knife after Lyra's alethiometer is stolen while visiting Will's world. For its return they are told to steal the knife..  when they do that however they discover that the knife has phenomenal power and strength - not the least being the ability to cut windows between worlds..  no plot spoilers, but the book ends with Lyra and Will about to enter the world of the dead in search of Will's father, and Lyra's long lost friend. an ABSOLUTE page turner...
With Will and Lyra searching the world of the dead, at the same time Asriels war against the authority has kicked off with both sides gathering allies in all the thousands and millions of coexistent worlds. The Magisterium send an assassin after Lyra, but they survive to provide critical assistance to Asriel in the final battle. Meanwhile, a character we first met in the second book (Mary Malone - a researcher at the Oxford University of our world) also finds a window, and arrives in the world of the Mulefa (a kind of tapir/elephant cross that move around on wheels made from seed pods - and I can't wait to see how the BBC show that!) and there discovers the Amber spyglass which allows her to see dust for the first time, and an ecological disaster in the making. Stunning...
Cut forward in time and this book deals with a Lyra in her early 20's..  but a much diminished Lyra, a quite sad Lyra though she wouldn't agree. She is now an undergraduate student at college, but slowly and surely she is losing her optimism and outlook - her imagination as her daemon Pan calls it. she is at odds with her daemon - they have been able to separate since the events of the Amber Spyglass, but now the guilt is beginning to corrode. Pan leaves her to travel and find her imagination so they can be as they were, and after moves by the Magisterium to hunt her down (the reappearance - in a way - of an old enemy from the Belle Sauvage) Lyra goes on the run, and in search of Pan.  I cannot wait for the third volume...  simply stunning...
The book that started it all - the meeting between Stephen Maturin and Jack Aubrey could have so easily gone the other way! Without a doubt the finest Napoleonic naval fiction writer there ever was...  if you don't believe me, try it and immerse yourself in the Royal Navy and society of the 18th Century ... Jane Austen with cannons and sails..
Jack goes from rags to riches in his usual round about way - it is the Peace of Amiens and having lost all his money in a financial fraud he is declared bankrupt and escapes to London to avoid the bailiffs - escaping again to the continent he discovers from friends in France that war is about to break out again and with Stephen disguised as a bear (superb!) they escape to Spain...  captured..  freed..  given command of an experimental ship...   before finally meeting triumph on the high sea's against a Spanish bullion ship
Missing out on the Spanish bullion prize money on a technicality Aubrey remains in debt..  Maturin goes on a spying mission in Spain and is captured, tortured, but rescued..back in England Aubrey is taken by the bailiffs and out in a sponging house (debtors prison) before Maturin manages to free him with an advance on some of the money he is owed for the Spanish bullion capture. Back in command of the Surprise the ship is destined for India and the Far East..  excellent..   the descriptions of the battle with the French squadron and the East India ships is second to none..  and Aubrey is inching ever closer to marrying his beloved Sophie.
If only temporarily (the now married and with children) Aubrey gets to raise his broad pennant as Commodore of a (small) task force tasked with opposing a much stronger French force of crack heavy frigates operating in the Indian Ocean. Cue operations around Mauritius and Reunion, opposed landing by the British army, but eventual triumph. Aubrey is tasked with taking the dispatches home - a sure guarantee of promotion and favour.
Jack (with Stephen) is given command of the elderly 50 gunner Leopard with instructions to go to Australia to help resolve issues caused by the governorship of Bligh (yes him.. same one) that had culminated in the Rum Rebellion. He is further ordered to carry a number of prisoners, the cover for one particular prisoner that the intelligence service require Stephen to interrogate more closely on the voyage. The prisoners bring jail fever on board (typhus) and in the ensuing epidemic over half the crew die. They care chased by a heavily armed Dutch 74, and having eluded that (no spoilers) are subsequently holed and almost sunk in the ice fields before making it to Desolation Island (the Kerguelen Islands) for repairs...  stunning... 
This has been a stupidly good year for books and I need to be careful I don't run out of 10's but I'm afraid this will be another! I have now read 29 of the Maigret books (not including this one) and have to say that this is without a doubt the best so far.

Maigret receives a series of strange phone calls from a caller who reports he is in danger, is scared for his life, and cannot shake someone who is following him..  when the (murdered) body is found Maigret sets out to hunt down the perpetrators discovering on his way a gang implicated in a number of bloody and ruthlessly carried out country side robberies...
In my view the best of the four books in the Omnibus that I was reading (the other three follow)..  the books starts with Hornblower imprisoned after a sea battle in the previous book that resulted in his ship being sunk whilst facing overwhelming numbers.He is sentenced to be sent to Paris for trial on trumped up charges of alleged piracy but on the way manages to escape with his trusty side kicks Bush and Brown. Taking refuge with a friendly French family for the winter they are assumed dead by the authorities, and in the following spring travel down river masquerading as a fishing party, before managing to re-capture a British ship taken the previous year in battle. Despite being riven throughout the book by doubts over the loss of his ship in the battle, Hornblower arrives back in England to great popular acclaim, and an honourable acquittal in the required court martial.
10 an absolutely outstanding year for good stories - out of those, it was a close call but on on balance I think the O'Brien book just takes it..  it starts a fantastic series of books based on the experiences of a Napoleonic naval captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey and his good friend Stephen Maturin.. if no one has tried these, you need to, the writing, and the prose style is sublime...  ("Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, 'Jack, you have debauched my sloth.” 😂)

The worst lowest scoring book was still better than anything I could write, so I refuse to comment here on it..  authors work long hours, and they don't need someone like me who has never created a book, to 'diss' their efforts..

This year?? Well I intend to keep exactly the same expectations! Fingers crossed...  
  1. play more games
  2. blog more - there I said it..
  3. try to keep up my painting efforts.. 
  4. continue reading more non-fiction... it is the heart and core of the hobby..
  5. Salute, Colours and/or Warfare...  Salute is already cancelled for 2022 so that's one off the list
  6. Tangmere visit
  7. Edgehill walk - unlikely but if we don't aim, we don't even shoot... (just call me Confucius the Wargamer....)
  8. Spend less time on Facebook - it's wasted time, and it's too easy to lose an hour that I could use doing something else
  9. Continue losing more weight - fed up being a fat bastard...
  10. HMS Victory - been years since I last went ..
So finally, Happy New Year to all my reader - may the dice roll as required, your brushes always keep a sharp tip, the beer be hoppy and bright, and the books all page turners...