Monday, August 21, 2017

Vivandieres & Why I hate Lady Macbeth




NOTE: This is a repost of an entry I wrote in 2012.  I was discussing it with a friend last night and went back to it to refresh my memory what I had written.  I've made an addition or two to it and fixed some of the broken links.  I still think it stands up as a criticism.

 
Daughter of the Regiment
19th century audiences found cantinieres quite romantic
  
I have a soft spot for vivandieres. A friend of Mrs Kinch's remarked on this once, though she couchedit in somewhat unkind terms. "Was it normal for the prostitutes to wear uniforms?*" 
As it happens, no it was not, though no doubt someone can produce an example somewhere. I suspect Massena's name will crop up. 
Vivandieres and Cantinieres (for our purposes the terms are effectively interchangeable) were women who had a contract to supply spirits, shaving kit and other small necessities to the regiment to which they were attached. Strictly speaking the girls didn't have this contract themselves, it was held by a Sergeant who was known as a Cantinier. The Cantinier's wife was known as the Cantiniere and was definitely not a prostitute. She took up the job as the Cantinier was too busy with his duties, marching up and down and so forth and staring at terrified recruits and saying things like "Zis eez ze brown bess musket, eet eez ze preferred wepon ov yur enemy and it make a verey diztinktive zound when fired at you, mon brave."



An S Range Vivandiere

This figure represents a typical vivandiere/cantiniere with her basket and little barrel of brandy. She was a gift from Foy over at Prometheus in Aspic, who no doubt noted my somewhat unwholesome interest in the breed. She was painted by Krisztian, whose skill and craftsmanship is almost getting monotonous in its excellance.

 For your titilation, the ladies uncovered ankles.
Put them away you dirty, dirty girl...

As it happened Cantiniere's were rather better at surviving battles than their husbands were and as such (as well as I suspect their access to a legitimate source of booze may also have played a part) were highly sought after as spouses. Nicholette, the vivandiere, in RF Delderfields "Seven Men of Gascony" is married several times and is unabashedly unsentimental about the process.


Just pull yourself together dear...

NOTE: As I am revisiting this post, I realised that I linked to the image I used here (rather than downloading it and inserting it into the text) and whoever was using it has removed it.  For reference it was an image of a very attractive actress,  playing Lady Macbeth.  She was down to her bra and underwear and covered in so much blood she looked like something out of the third act of Carrie. 

Which brings me to the second point of this post, what does Kinch have against Lady Macbeth? Nothing per se, I like Macbeth. It's not my favourite or the one I know best, but it is very, very good. However, I don't care for the usual casting of Lady Macbeth, who is often a painfully young, screechy creature who uses the sleepwalking scene to take her hysterics for a walk.

All of which misses one of the essential truths of soldiers wives - they are tough women.

Isuzu Yamada's performance in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood is a notable exception to this somewhat depressing rule and Dame Judi Dench in Trevor Nunn's 1979 production is suitably flinty, but what makes those two stand out is that while they do portray women in a state of mental breakdown, they don't make a meal of it. To paraphrase Victoria Wood, you can't just rub some blood on your hands, scream a bit and go,  "Don't mind me, I'm a looney".

NOTE: Apparently "Don't mind me, I'm a looney" does not have the common currency that it should.  It is a reference to "Giving Notes", a magnificent sketch by the late (and much missed) Victoria Wood. It's only three minutes long and for context, the character is a producer in an amateur production of Hamlet.




 A second Vivandiere, 
based on the facings I'd say attached to a regiment of dragoons

No-one has made a film of Seven Men of Gascony, which is a pity as it's rather good and with the exception of Gerard, certainly the best fiction I've read about the period from the French point of view.  I fear however, that if one was made today, that poor old Nicolette would be hammered into the same tired "beautiful, but deadly" formula that seems to be rule for heroines these days.

This lady was a gift from Old John of 20mmNostalgic Revival and she does look fine. She's been used as an objective marker (with attached donkey) for Command & Colours Napoleonics games so far, though I think it will take a skirmish game for her to come into her own.




"I hate to see you leave, 
but I love to watch you go."

I think the point about the portrayal of Lady Macbeth that annoys me so much is that it is unfair. Sir Terry Pratchett wrote about women like her in his fantasy novel, "Guards, Guards".

"Sybil's female forebears had valiantly backed up their husbands as distant embassies were besieged, had given birth on a camel or in the shade of a stricken elephant, had handed around the little gold chocolates while trolls were trying to break into the compound, or had merely stayed at home and nursed such bits of husbands and sons as made it back from endless little wars. The result was a species of woman who, when duty called, turned into solid steel."

Sir Terry is writing about a policeman's wife, rather than a soldiers and I see a lot of Sybil in Mrs Kinch sometimes. It may no longer be fashionable or popular and I can't think of an example in popular culture in recent years, but I'll be damned if I don't give these ladies their due.




*Whereupon my mother in law (who is reading this over my shoulder, yes you Mary) says something uncharitable about the Guards Division.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cardinal's Guard


The latest addition to the collection from our man in Budapest.  This is a 1/16 Cardinals Guard from Mini Art and very lovely it is too. I remember being quite confused as a young adult when I finally read Dumas unabridged and discovered that D'Artagnan and Cardinal Richelieu end the novel as not quite enemies and almost allies. 


The richness of the red in the tabard is really something. 


As always, our man's faces are excellent. This fellow is definitely not someone to be trifled with.  I'm always amazed by the character he manages to impart to a relatively humble plastic kit. This chap will be taking over guard duties on one of my bookshelves.  One thing I've noticed is that these larger figures can get quite dusty after a while.  A feather duster doesn't seem to be the way to go, but I'm sure there's a way of keeping them bright without damaging them. 


Of course, I think everyone of my age who took an interest in Dumas came across him here.  I am happy to announce that this is proving a real hit with the Kinchlets.  One thing that struck me about the programme is actually how demanding it is of its viewers. The Kinchlets like the music and colours, but something that completely passed me by when I watched it originally is that it actually tells a reasonably close version of the three musketeers story in something like thirty plus installments. 

It really surprised me to see a children's television programme that believed its audience would be able to keep up. 

"What are you up to Daddy?"

The Kinchlets continue to be a joy albeit a tiring one.  Girl Kinchlet is crawling now and suddenly Sir Harry Flashman VC is leading a new and very exciting existence that mainly involves sleeping out of reach and keeping his tail where he can see it. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hurrah for the Portuguese

A French column marches on Le Cor's men. 
(Please click to enlarge)

One interesting side effect of last week's entry was an email from a regular reader of Joy & Forgetfulness, who was not aware that I write regularly for Miniature Wargames. I shall save the poor chaps blushes as he is a subscriber and had been reading "Send three & fourpence" for a while, but had never connected the two. 

Keeping up the column has taken more application that usual over the last year - but as my faculties improve it is getting easier.  It also gave me the excuse to have a look at the battle of St. Pierre, part of the 1813 battle of the Nive, where Sir Rowland "Daddy" Hill held off far superior numbers under Marshall Soult. A goodly portion of his forces were Portuguese and I found that after taking the pictures for the article, I had completely missed out the "Fighting Cocks" of the army.  The scenario will be appearing in the next issue of Miniature Wargames.  It was a bit of a challenge, as the battle itself involved the defender facing two to one odds and winning.  


The view from the French side
(Please click to enlarge)


My miniature photography is slowly improving, but I really need to work on my post production. The white balance in these is all over the place. That background could do with a bit of an iron as well.


I might have tilted the camera slightly, er, 
what I mean is I tried out some Rodchenko angles
(Please click to enlarge)


It seems ungrateful  as these fine fellows have done Trojan service over the last few years, but the Ykreol plastics are without doubt some of the most lumpen figures in my collection.  If only I had realised that HAT Peninsula British would do as well with a lick of blue paint.

With drums beating the pas de charge - the French close on the Portuguese line
(Please click to enlarge)


On the other hand, my venerable NIKON D40 is still doing stalwart service, even if it does excite some eyerolling when it is produced in public.  It isn't broken, it takes perfectly good photographs and I see no reason to go for a more expensive option.

The Portuguese musketry begins to tell
(Please click to enlarge)

Arranging some toy soldiers for photos is actually a very pleasant pastime and I should do it more often.  I've never really understood the diorama impulse before, but I think its attractions are beginning to dawn on me. 


....and casualties begin to mount. 
(Please click to enlarge)


French peasants regard the occupation forces with curiosity tinged with fear
(Please click to enlarge)




The chaplain from one of the British regiments converses with some local monks
(Please click to enlarge)



The ill fated Col. Bunbury makes inquiry of the corporal on guard 
(Please click to enlarge)

I hope you've enjoyed these. I certainly enjoy taking them. Perhaps we might see a little 
more of this sort of thing. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Someone has blundered....



The Remnants of an Army by Lady Butler

...and I am that someone.  I recently received an email about my recent piece in Miniature Wargames Issue 411 from Mr. Andrew McGuire.  The piece was a scenario for "The Men who would be Kings" ruleset based around the battle of the piquets which took place at the beginning of the Little Inkerman battle.  Mr. McGuire wrote;

"I just wanted to make a small correction to Conrad Kinch's article on adapting The Men Who Would Be Kings to the Crimean War in his Little Inkerman article in MW 411.

In his order of battle, Conrad refers to the British 95th regiment as the 95th Rifles, and gives them the rating of sharpshooters. This would be applicable to the 95th regiment of the Napoleonic Wars, but not to that of the Crimea, as the 95th became the Rifle Brigade in 1816, when numerous regiments were disbanded, and the regimental number 95, along with many others, became vacant. It was reassigned to a newly raised regiment in 1823, as the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot. This is the regiment which fought as part of the 2nd division in the Crimea, and has no connection to the 95th Rifles. 

Two battalions of the original 95th's successor regiment, the Rifle Brigade, served in the Crimea, but not at the engagement described in the article."

He is, of course, absolutely right.  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  This is a case where if I was thinking I would have realised that I was making a blunder, but I saw the regimental number and my brain temporarily went on holiday.  As it happens, I would argue for keeping the sharpshooter (4+ shooting) rating for the 95th on this occasion.  There are two reasons, the real reason and an after the fact rationalisation. The rationalisation is that the lads on the field only represent a small proportion of the regiment deployed as skirmishers and therefore is quite possible that they were the best shots. The real reason relates to game play; in the scenario two British players have to compete to hold off the Russian columns for as long as possible while vying with each other to earn a Victoria Cross.  The 95th are deployed far back on the board (because that was where they were stationed) and will therefore have little chance to fire in the early portion of the game.  This would handicap their player, so I rated them as marksmen so that when they did get to fire they would be more effective - which leveled the playing field a bit and made it more of a contest. 

Thank you very much to Andrew for writing and pointing out my mistake.  It's rare to get specific feedback on anything, so I was very glad to get it. 

Prof. Spencer on lessons learned from the Boer War

I've been laid up recently and so spent rather more time listening to YouTube than I would usually.  Thanks to Rob Enfield of British Muzzleloaders, I came across the Western Front Association which has put a series of lectures on the Great War (including ones of the Eastern Front!) up on YouTube. There is some really fascinating stuff there, by genuine  historians working in the field,  and their channel is well worth a browse. 


A look at Marshall Petain's Great War service. 

By the way, if you enjoyed the lecture on the Boer War, the same author has an article on the differences between British and Boer marksmanship, which you can read here

Now, if you'll excuse me I had to go and see what blunder I should commit next. 



Saturday, July 15, 2017

A painter once again



Trooper Hobbes 

Babies, physiotherapy and all the other demands on my time have left little time for painting.  My eyes are functioning quite well these days, but the problem is stamina*.  Close work is quite taxing and I find myself saving that for writing work at present.  However, the yen to paint was on me quite fiercely a little while ago and I pulled this chap out of the box. A Rogue Trader era Squat Trooper, I think he is a Bob Olley sculpt. 

I decided that this should be Trooper Hobbes of the Imperial Army.  The name came to mind as he is nasty, brutish and short and the rest followed on from there. 






Ready to zap things for the Emperor 

Going back to painting after such a long time away was actually quite intimidating, but after some great help and encouragement from JB over at the Lead Plague blog, I got over the hump.  Another excellent example of the Freemasonry of the hobby. JB helped me pick colours which would work together, something I'm usually hopeless at.  Since so many of my figures are historicals, there is rarely much choice in how to approach them.  Total freedom tends to breed a sort of analysis paralysis. Many thanks JB. 



Stylishly turned out for the battlefield of the 41st Millenium

Trooper Hobbes is a recent addition to the Imperial Army, which he enjoys for the regular meals and the possibilities for violence.  I do not think that the officer that tries to tell him that his natty white gloves and boots are "not regulation" will have a good time of it. 



This way towards enemy

I'm very pleased with how he turned out.  It was an evenings work and cost me a blinding headache, but I was determined to finish him.  With a bit of luck, he may get some pals in the near future. 


*Ahem...that's what she said. *hilarity ensues, calls for order, much merriment, etc* 

Saturday, July 1, 2017



Well done chaps. Do keep it up. 


Friday, June 30, 2017

Turkish Command


The Pasha taking his ease, accompanied by pipe bearers

The most recent additions to the Conrad Kinch Red Fez repertory company are these Strelets Crimean Turks which were painted for me by the ever talented Tamas.  These fellows will be doing duty in my Turkish Crimean army and my 1880 Egyptian army. 




The view from the rear

One of the joys of Strelets sets is the additional "character" figures that you get mixed in with the more usual stuff.  I think they really add something to a table layout and make it look a bit more alive. 




I really like the depth of colour Tamas has managed to 
get on the frogging and epaulets. 



Recent CCTV footage from Kinch Court


In other news, in a previous post I wrote that my physiotherapist was asking me to twerk as part of my therapy.  Physio is going well and I am improving.  It's always a slow process and I am very lucky to be seeing a doctor who has managed to bring on such improvement.  

So I was lying when I wrote that he asked me to twerk.  Or to put it more correctly, I was joking and exaggerating for comic effect.  The exchange I described in my blog was accurate, right up until that point. Twerking has no therapeutic purpose in dealing with balance injuries and I do not include it in my daily exercises. 

I do it mainly for fun, the many health benefits and of course, to set a good example for the children.  




The local Imam giving it socks

The last figure that Tamas did is this fella, an Imam who will be seeing service in the Crimea, Egypt and possible Afghanistan before too long.  He's the first non-Christian clergyman I've added to my collection of miniature clerics.  

I wonder who will be next?