Thursday, 29 October 2015

A castle too far!

         Wed 28th October

                     Once again on a train,this time heading for Bangor in order to catch a bus to Caernarvon in order to see Teddy the First's masterpiece and they weren't far from the truth but you would have thought he would have built a railway station beside it as well.Some people are not forward thinking.

                     Caernarvon castle is situated right at the harbour in the town square.It reminds me of Edinburgh castle but on a smaller scale especially with all the gift shops and cafes surrounding it.

   Before we ventured into the castle we saw a sign for a boat cruise around the Menai Strait so as we had plenty of time we got our seeboots on and climbed aboard.It was a pleasant little cruise and the captain explained about the appearing sandbanks and amongst other things told us about the local wildlife.Also shown were the beaches were Maurice Wilks tested his new creation the Land Rover at Newborough away back in 1947.He then informed us about Fort Belan which was built by Thomas Wynn,local constable, as a defence against privateers during the American War of Independence and also used during the Napoleonic Wars.
                           He then informed us how one of Wynn's descendants would fire blanks from the cannons on special occasions but decided one day in honour of his mother-in -laws's birthday to fire a real cannon ball which dismasted a schooner in the Strait.He was fined £25 for that escapade.

                             Back on land we ventured into the castle expecting to be there for about an hour-wrong!There is a lot to see and there are many intertwining passages all around the castle to get lost in.
                 There were exhibitions about the Welsh princes preceding Edward and also a display about Queen Eleanor and the reasons for her young teenage marriage to Edward.
                  There was also an exhibition about Roman emperor Macsen Wledig(Magnus Maximus) who had a dream about a beautiful woman and sent out messengers throughout the empire to find this woman.She was eventually found to be a British princess in North West Wales.He proceeded to marry her and their descendants allegedly included the Welsh princes and King Arthur.This appealed to King Edward's naivety and he stated that they were his ancestors.I wonder if he wants to buy the Forth Bridge from me?
                                       Opinion time-I do believe Arthur existed but not in the way Geoffrey of Monmouth or Sir Thomas Mallory made him out to be.I believe he was a Romano-British commander around the time of the first Anglo-Saxon invasions but why let the truth get in the way of a good story.
                        The Royal Welch budgie feathers(sorry Fusiliers)have their museum in Caernarvon castle and it is a brilliant exhibition showing and depicting the history of the regiment from its origins in 1689 right up to its modern deployments.
Just a coincidence that the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers have their museum in Alnwick castle.


All in all a good two hours were needed to go around the castle in order to see all the nooks and crannies as well as all the exhibits.

We are supposed to be heading for Beuamaris castle tomorrow but there is mutiny in the ranks(mainly me).To misquote Boy Browning we may have gone a castle too far.


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

A Welsh busman's holiday.

Tues 27th October

                          Lady Watson suggested that since we hadn't seen many trains in the last few weeks(what!)that we should visit and travel on the Blaenau-Ffestiniog narrow gauge railway.I agreed(anything for a quiet life)and we toddled off(by train) to take a trip to Porthmadoc on the narrow gauge.
                    Actually it was not bad.It is a well run setup with plenty of volunteers.We even had a ticket collector who smiled(have to get him medscreened) and we enjoyed some coffee and fruit cake whilst the narrow gauge train slowly meandered its way down to Porthmadoc.

 We arrived into Porthmadoc after about an hour to find the usual British sea side town albeit with some nice shops(and the ubiquitous Edinburgh Woolen mill).Also for the first time in our trip it rained.
 This is usually a good time to peruse the shops.I found an excellent model shop which also sold figures.The shop had an impressive American Civil War diorama set up involving hundreds of figures.I left after a while with my carrier bag full of goodies only to find that the model I had bought was the wrong size,wouldn't be like me.
                                        After a walk around the town we headed to a nice cafe for some sustenance,mainly chicken soup(which tasted an awfully lot like Heinz) and some delicious egg custard flan.Just the job for the trip up the mountain which now due to the rain resembled a Terry Pratchett novel.
                        We arrived back at  Blaenau-Ffestinog  and headed for yet another train.
                         Tomorrow's trip is back  on the castle trail with hopefully a visit to Caernarfon castle.
                           See you when I see you.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Spectre of Welsh Rarebit

          Mon 26th October

                         The second day of our bronze anniversary tour of North Wales found us venturing out to Rhuddlan castle near the town of Rhyl.This was another castle built by Teddy the first to keep the locals in check.It is not as big and intricate as Conwy castle.
Just four walls with towers in each corner and a massive gatehouse.
One of the novel points of this castle is that it had its own dock on the river Clwyd where it could be resupplied if the natives were congregating at the front gate.

              One the way to the castle we stopped off in the village of Rhuddlan at a nice place called Esther's tearooms for the best Welsh Rarebit I've ever tasted.This wasn't just cheese on toast it was made properly with the cheese sauce simply overflowing.This sumptuous meal was finished off with a slab of nicely moist fruit cake.Sustenance for the trip ahead to the castle
                         After spending some time at the castle we headed back into the town of Rhyl to sample one of the hostelries o our favourite solicitors Messrs Weather & Spoons for some light refreshments before heading off to see the first local showing of Spectre which I thought was amazing.Well recommended.
                         All in all a fine way to finish off my eighth anniversary.A good ending to the day preceded by another castle visited and in the excellent company of Lady Watson.
                           Seemingly tomorrow we're heading to the narrow gauge railway at Blaenau Ffestiniog.Watch this space.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Food fight in Conwy

                Sunday 25th October

               Lady Watson planned our annual anniversary disappearance from civilization and this years jaunt was to North Wales,Conwy to be precise.Hoping for a nice quiet getaway from the hustle and bustle we found ourselves in the middle of the local food festival which is the largest in North Wales so we had no problem looking for the weekly rations.Every food under the sun was on offer from fresh mussels to bratwurst with a lot of mulled wine thrown in.

               After checking our accommadation which was out of this world, especially for someone like myself who likes toy soldiers,as there were cabinets with figures of all shapes and sizes as well as other displays of other ornaments and collectibles mainly nautical which again was right up my street.


Our first venture today was to Conwy castle.This was one of the castles built by Teddy the First to keep the locals in check and I must admit it is remarkably well preserved for its age.A nice walk around the castle walls with plenty of pictures taken by myself and Lady Watson.
 After an hour going round the castle walls and interacting with some lads and lassies dressed up in medieval garb complete with hawks,we decided we needed to locate to a local hostelry to try the local ale again.Trouble was that Hobgoblin was on the menu-enough said.
                               After a couple of flagons of ale we headed or home to rest before Monday's trials and tribulations.
                                 Until then I'll see you when I see you.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Trouble at the double

Double header this week with similar results.Firstly Wednesday's game was a reanaction of the Battle of Inverkeithing which was a part of Cromwell's venture into Scotland after threw its hand in with Charles ll against parliament.Once again in our history we made a dodgy decision.
               Six of us took part in the game with Donald umpiring.
                Colin Jack,Mr Ray Neal and myself took the side of the Scottish defenders whilst Dave O'Brien,Hugh WIlson and oor Bart took the side or the side of the Parliamentary invadors.
               The armies lined up facing each other with our forces perched on a hill.True to form and history I decided on a cavalry probe with my forces only to be met by some of Bart's Ironsides cavalry who had been round the block once or twice in the previous years of civil war and although my cavalry set off with good intentions they were met head on by Bart's cavalry given a bloody red nose and sent back in disarray only to be followed up and damaged even more.This was to be the norm for the evening.
            My cavalry only lasted for a few turns before deciding enough is enough and high tailed it for better pastures.Bart's cavalry then decided to deal with Mr Ray's artillery and infantry eventually dealing with both with ease.
            Meanwhile Dave's Dragoons had slowly made their way on foot round the left flank of the Scottish army getting first into a position to fire and then engage Mr Ray's other battalion.
            Hugh was slowly making his way up the field with his infantry and arrived in firing distance just in time to see Bart's cavalry charging off the battlefield in true Zprince Rupert tradition and heading for the tourist spots of Central Fife.
             Hugh's infantry finally engaged both my infantry and Mr Ray's infantry and eventually cleared both units from the hill leaving Colin Jack facing the remainder of the Parlamentary forces.The only good thing was that the last orders bell had been wrung and it was time to pack up.
            A great game enjoyed by everyone.It puts me in the mood for putting an English civil war army together in the new year.

               Scenario-David Leslie,John Lambert and Olly Cromwell
                Figures-Donald Adamson and Hugh Wilson
                Scots-Colin Jack
                           Mr Ray Neal
                           Tim Watson

                           English-Dave O'Brien
                                       Hugh Wilson
                                       Bart  Zymda

           A sumptuous curry was provided by Lady Suzzanne(once again with vegetables from her garden).

 No sooner had I time to draw breath when I headed for my local games club SESWC the following evening to see what was on offer.Maybe Bolt Action,Back of Beyond even Kingmaker which I had brought just in case-nope-Rennaissance galleys!I thought that I had tried everything out pops this little gem from the woodwork(literally).
              This is a game of galley warfare from the 15th and 16th centuries,the most famous engagement being the Battle of Lepanto which involved a papal led fleet engaging and defeating an Ottoman fleet.
               The game is good in that it didn't take to long to play(about an hour-just enough for my attention span) giving us enough time to play a couple of games.
              I took the part of the Ventians with a large galley and a smaller one.The rules were very simple involving moving,shooting and boarding.Since these were slave crewed galleys there was no need to worry about wind.
             My ships moved forward to engage fellow club members Matt's galleys only to throw horrendous dice meaning I was hardly hitting my target and also taking longer to reload my guns allowing Matt to sail up and set fire to my large galley.That sealed the fate of game one.
            Matt had to leave early so my enemies ships were taken over by that renowned Turkish admiral Jack Glanville,all round scurvy knave!
             Jack knew the rules and gameplay inside out,mainly because he had helped to play test the rules for the author.
            Although Jack attacked straight away capturing my large galley,the dice roll went against him and he eventually lowered his guard allowing me to attack and capture his larger galley with my smaller one.Time was called leaving me with a draw which was my best result of the two days.

          I'm off to North Wales next week so I hope to be visiting a few castles and hope to give a few reports throughout  the week.

               See Barts report as well.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Slings and Bows of Outrageous Fortune

Wed 30th September

                  Another thrilling installment in the O'Brien Irish saga this evening with a twist that everyone was on the same side with Dave providing random events and attacks on our forces which were helping to relieve and supply a besieged castle belonging to the Earl of Pembroke.
                   Henry de Clare had finally managed to marry Domnall Mor Vi Brain's daughter and thereafter the hirsute pa-in-law decided to die suddenly leaving all his lands to his greiving son-in-law who then decided in his father-in-law's memory to dot the landscape with a few castles.This obviously annoyed the local inhabitants and they decided to take back some of these castles and therefore some knights had been delegated to deliver supplies to our castle.This involved units of cavalry and infantry escorting various types of supplies mainly sheep,cattle,corn and essential flagons of Hobgoblin.

                   Rolling the highest number in a communal dice roll I decided to place my men and the cattle I was protecting in the vanguard of the column which was a pain in the ass to the rest of the players as I couldn't move my own men and cattle for love nor money.After finally getting my cattle to move they decided it was in their best interests to stampede albeit towards some Irish skirmishers who were getting ready to add some prime Irish beef to their diet.
                   My units blocking the road allowed the Irish ambushing units to attack units in the rear.First with hit and run tactics on Mr Ray Neal's wagons but they then vanished into nearby woods.
               So we were set for an evening of slow movement up a narrow road with an Irish attack appearing every time a wood was passed.
               After my first stampede my cattle kept up their consistency by stampeding in exactly the opposite direction making my men having to chase them again.
               One of my partners in crime,Hugh Wilson,decided to throw fate to the wind and moved his men and the sheep he was herding around the side of my men towards the castle.This led to him being attacked by skulking Irishmen from a nearby wood.Although he lost some sheep he pushed his Irish foes off the table.He finally managed to move his men and sheep round my right flank hoping to make a dash for the castle along a seemingly deserted road.
                Meanwhile Mr Ray decided to move crosscountry around my left side with his men
and wagons full of foaming ale but upon reaching a ford his force were attacked by some thirsty Fianna who engaged Ray's forces whilst some Irish skirmishers decided to confiscate the flagons of ale.
                 Bill's forces and wagons slowly moved up the road cursing at my forces blocking the road looking hopefully for a gap between myself and Hugh's column.Meanwhile at the rear Martin was patiently waiting for everyone to get out of his way.
                     My infantry on my left flank made their way up the hill to confront the Irish rustlers.They engaged them,scattered them and then proceeded to head for a wood full of the Irish who had been previously engaged with Hugh's forces.I finally made contact with them and supported by my crossbowmen(who had finally got the cattle under control) again pushed them back into the woods.
              Hugh's forces were coming off better against his Irish opponents and then proceeded to move his sheep towards the castle only to be interrupted by more Irish encamped near a ford in front of the castle but this merely hindered him reaching his goal.
                Ray's forces were still engaged and in order to deal with the bunch he was facing added his leader to the combat to weed out the Irish band of cutthroats in his way.It all went pear shaped for Ray as he first lost the cart full of Hobgoblin( a heinous crime)and then to his ultimate misfortune lost his general fighting against the Irish causing his forces to quit whilst the getting was good.He ended up taking charge of some Irish against Martin who was still slowly bringing up the rear.
        Bill looked for and finally found a gap enabling him to move his wagons nearer the castle and also being able to engage some Irish with his cavalry.
               Once again the hours and minutes ticked by and eventually the full time whistle arrived with Hugh the clear victor as he had arrived at the castle first(albeit minus a few sheep) and had dispatched some Irish peasants in the process.
                   A great game made better by the fact that we are all beginning to comprehend the rules better.Also another brilliantly planned scenario by Dave o'Brien showing his interest for the picked on Irish underlings.
                   Next game in a fortnight I believe is the battle of Inverkeithing during Cromwell's holiday venture into Scotland.

                   Scenario and figs-Dave o'Brien

                   Protaganists-Tim Watson
                                      Mr Ray Neal
                                      Bill Gilchrist
                                      Martin Gibson
                                      Hugh Wilson

                  Scenery-Hugh Wilson

                  Medieval banquet-Lady Suzanne( which included vegetables from the Wilson mansion garden).

                 Photos-Tim Watson -with my new camera graciously given to me by Lady Watson(only because she bought herself a new one).
                             Bill Gilchrist