OR A TRUE RELATION OF STRANGE PROCEEDINGS IN A SOMERSETSHIRE LOFT

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

CHRISTMAS PUNCH

Alfront mentioned he was rather partial to the Sherlock Holmes story The Blue Carbuncle

http://alfront-wardiariesofalittleenglander.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-adventures.html?showComment=1356509332861#c1669285265699434303

which set me thinking about my favourite Christmas story. I am a devotee of good ghost stories, so I think I would go for (perhaps predictably) The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance by M R James. The story takes the form of a series of letters describing the search for the clergyman uncle of the writer who has gone missing at Christmas time. In one of the letters he describes a horrifying dream in which a demonic Mr Punch appears

" and to see his horrible face-it was yellowish white I may remark-peering round the wings made me think of the Vampyre in Fuseli's foul sketch"

" after it (the murder of one of the puppet victims) Punch came and sat on the footboard  and fanned himself, and looked at his shoes, which were bloody, and hung his head on one side, and sniggered in so deadly a fashion, that I saw some of those beside me cover their faces..."



Another great ghost story, perhaps less disturbing, is For the Local Rag by A M Burrage, which has at least some Christmas sentiment and good cheer in it!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

SEASONS GREETINGS ONE AND ALL

I'll be signing off for a day or two I expect, so can I take this opportunity to wish my blogging friends old and new a Very Merry Christmas/Good Yule/Bright Solstice blessings (insert appropriate to your beliefs) .

Here is a very old figure I painted up today (it's great having a few days off I can tell you) issued by Citadel as a freebie back in the mid 80's. On the base it says "Merry Xmas from Citadel" but I can't make the date out.


cheers.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

AN EXPECTED REFERENCE TO AN UNEXPECTED PARTY

It was tiddling down with rain all day today, so this afternoon I took Robin to see The Hobbit. It was with a heavy heart that I went along, for what little I had seen of the characters in the film I feared the worst, but actually I thought it was excellent, and more importantly Robin loved it too. The Dwarf city under the Lonely Mountain was fantastic and had me itching to get modelling, and I thought the Great Goblin was very well done. I won't rattle on about the things I didn't like (beardless dwarves really rankle) but I could see everything that was changed. added or different to my own personal imaginings of Middle Earth was done for a very good reason.

Afterwards we stuck our head into Games Workshop, just along the road from the cinema. I didn't get a chance to look at a great deal as I was cornered by an aggressive sales person (I hate that in shops), but Robin slipped away to check out the orc boar riders he covets. I did however glimpse this little set

The White Council

hmmm, 4  quite nice figures...what's that? Not cast in metal, but crumbly resin which breaks as soon as you look at it? And the price...... can you believe it? £45.

I am being naive, or is that rather a lot even by todays standards?

MINIFIGS ELVES

Back in August I muttered something about painting some elves, and I have just finished them.....



as with the dwarfs, I have not decided how to paint the bases yet, although Scott has kindly planted an idea in my head. I like these old figures, as they have a quite sneaky and not very Tolkienesque look about them, more like elves in traditional folklore, just as likely to double cross you. I will eventually use these as Loyal Halfelves for my Oldhammer Thistlewood game (due to take place in 2045 when all figures are painted).


Friday, 21 December 2012

HO HO HO!!!


Young George was out whizzing his cars down the driveway, at the front of our house when who should come bowling along

the look on his face says it all.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

BROADSWORD AND THE BEAST

Back in the mists of time (1983 or 1984) I went along to Games Day in London, held at the Royal Horticultural Society Hall to spend my pocket money on D and D figures. One of the highlights for me was a talk given by the fantasy artist Iain McCaig, who at the time was forging his career and had recently painted my favourite ever album cover Broadsword and the Beast by Jethro Tull. Mr. McCaig related how he had fallen asleep at the easel, and woken up to find he had painted all the Runes around the edge of the cover, and he didn't know what they said. Great story, but I suspect he knew they were the words of the first verse of the song Broadsword on the album.

Anyhow, this made a profound impression on a callow youth like myself, and I resolved to make a model based on the ship shown on the cover. 30 odd years on, I have finally done so!!


Here is the front and reverse of the sleeve, showing Ian Anderson the lead singer of Jethro Tull (and a superb songwriter and musician) as a strange Beastie. On the reverse he is riding on the figurehead of the ship. I reckon Iain McCaig was only in his early 20's when he painted this, so he must have been delighted to land the commission that produced this iconic piece of rock art.












I think I will crew the ship with some Dwarves from the old Grenadier range. The sails depict The Pewter Moon (badge of the Dwarves of the Pewter Moon, one of the factions in my fantasy world, where I live a good deal of the time), the Sunchild, another reference to a prog rock song( from King Crimson this time)
and the Beastie suppressing The Crimson King, who is the baddie/evil empire etc in my world.

The ship is a viking Drakkar by......can't remember, but Eastern European company I think, with a heavily converted Papo dragon head pinched from Robin and Arthur's soldier box (thanks chaps).

I painted runes on the figurehead..... anyone care to have a crack at translating them?

 purely dedicated to my fantasy figures. I will post the fantasy stuff here as well, but keep the new blog solely for fantasy stuff without my random meanderings.




Saturday, 15 December 2012

BACK TO MY ROOTS

Well, here we are after 4 months absence, and I can only offer my apologies for my lack of blogging and more importantly commenting on the jolly good blogs I follow. We have had a busy summer (and good holiday back in August), and I have been pressing on with a few projects, including building some terrain boards for Robin who is now well and truly into our wonderful hobby of playing with little toy soldiers. I have taken him to 3 wargames shows over the past few months (Colours, Warfare and Reveille in Bristol) where we picked up loads of cheap secondhand figures for his collection. This has reminded me of how I started off gaming with metal figures, after the Airfix days, mainly playing Dungeons and Dragons and poring over White Dwarf back in the late 70's early 80's. I dug out my old White Dwarfs (happily I kept them all from 1-150) and thought about having a bash at building the forces for the Warhammer scenario Thistlewood in WD 45 , those happy times when Games Workshop let players use their imagination and any figures they could get their hands on. I tried to do this in 1983 but one can't get many figures on the earnings of a paperound which was the only income I had then.

Here are a unit of loyal Dwarfs (Dwarves) which I based about 10 years ago but never painted, figures mainly Dixon with a few Irregular thrown in. I have put them in a sort of uniform as they are meant to be part of a mainly human army, and the standard depicts the Sun in Splendour of Trompenburg, my ever present fantasy state. If I get around to painting the rest of the army they will be wearing the Maroon and Green colours of Tromenburg as well.




I can't quite decide how to finish the bases, so may leave them until I have more figures done.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

ONE RING TO RULE THEM AND FROM THEIR BLOGS KEEP THEM

Gently prodded into action by Alfront, I had better explain my absence  from the world of blogging. A number of factors have kept me from the screen, none of them serious but all combining to use up my limited time. Firstly our camera has been misbehaving, so pictures seem to be dull and grainy (perhaps like my painting) and it has been decided that we need a new one when funds allow. Primarily, my oldest lad Robin, has gone Lord of the Rings mad (huzzah) so I have been browsing ebay a good deal to pick up some very reasonable lots of suitable figures for him. This project has also resulted in rekindling my own interests in fantasy modelling and I am currently painting a batch of old Minifigs elves. Next week we are down on The Lizard holidaying, so, all being well I will post on our return.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

STRANGE AEONS PROJECT COMPLETED (almost)

A lamentable lack of activity on the blogging front in the last few weeks. I have just found time to comment on some of the blogs I follow, but that is about it. . No particular reason other than normal day to day existence and perhaps a lack of focus, hopping from one wargaming project to another almost on a daily basis, which of course is no use whatsoever. I have just been diagnosed with osteo-arthritis in my knees,  which have been giving me trouble over the last year or so... happily not life threatening but a bother in my line of work, as I am on my feet (or knees) all day. I decided to give myself a day off today and try and finish my Dunwich Horror gameboard, and I have just done so..... the second wargaming project I have finished in my life!! Actually I am waiting for a  friend to sculpt me the Dunwich Horror itself, but as it spends most of the story invisible and hidden in a decaying farmhouse I can show pictures of the board as it stands so far,


Dunwich Village

Osborn's General Store. The loafers outside are Airfix and Imex, the building from Hovels with a scratchbuilt ruined steeple.

The dark and tenebrous bridge over the dark and muttering Miskatonic river.

Wilbur Whateley outside his repellent farmhouse. Wilbur is from Rafm miniatures, a 25mm figure, but as he is meant to be 9 feet tall the figure works well with 1/72 figures. The house and shed are by Model Power.

The queer stone circle on Sentinel Hill

Some nervous villagers confront the Aylesbury Police. Note tentacle emerging from cart.

The intrepid Professors. Armitage, Rice and Morgan from Miskatonic University.


Detail of Wilbur and one of his sickly cattle. Wilbur's twin brother lurks in the house.

The ramp to an upper storey window, making it easier to feed the twin brother.

Some villagers

Wilbur has a strange anatomy


His back is squamous and piebald in black and yellow.

Police from Redbox and Model T from Reviresco

All in all I was quite pleased with the way it came out and I am tempted to have a bash at another 2' x 3' Strange Aeons board....either Innsmouth or the Antarctic.





Sunday, 10 June 2012

THE GREAT GOD PAN


After seeing Alfront's delightful statue of Pan 
 http://alfront-wardiariesofalittleenglander.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/i-am-seeker.html that resides in his garden I was moved to write up what I know about this deity, primarily as an exercise to massage my grey matter and get some practice doing a bit of research before starting a degree in October.  I too have a statue of Pan in the garden which I purchased about 25 years ago in Bradford on Avon,


 and it is interesting to see that such an ancient and marginalised deity is still very much alive in the 21st century in what is nominally a Christian Country.

I am by no means a classicist and to be frank my knowledge of the classics is limited, so I will drift over the Gods origins briefly before looking at his renaissance starting in the eighteenth century. Pan seems to begin his journey in the region of ancient Greece known as Arcadia, where there seems to have been a trend for theriomorphic gods. In Arcadia a rural and bucolic region, Pan’s duties were linked with the pastoral world. He was the god of shepherds protecting them and their flocks, but also a god of the hunt, presiding over smaller game such as hares (he is often depicted wielding a lagobolon, a device for catching hares) and birds whilst Artemis dealt with the larger animals. On returning from a hunt empty handed, young hunters might beat a statue of Pan in an attempt to stimulate the Gods fecundity into the animal realm.

Perhaps surprisingly, Pan is also a soldiers God, worshipped by those stationed in out of the way garrisons or soldiers on patrol in lonely rural places. During the Persian Wars (490-479BC) Pan also took a hand in military affairs by helping the Athenians (who re payed him by establishing his cult in Athens) and spreading panic (panikon) in the ranks of the enemy.

The name Pan seems to derive from pa(s) meaning guardian of the flocks, but was also later connected to the word pan meaning ‘all’, and from this we can perhaps determine that he was considered an all encompassing and universal god by the end of the classical period.  Plutarch’s well known story (brought to my attention by the Waterboys in their song ‘The Return of Pan’) of a mariner hearing the death of Pan announced by a mysterious voice, has been taken to mean the death of the old God (as an equal rival) and the rise of the new panacea, Christianity.

We next encounter Pan again some sixteen hundred years later, as he emerges blinking into the age of enlightenment, with an Arcadian revival in eighteenth century England. The accession of the Hanoverians was regarded as the start of a new Augustan age and classical allegory and the recreation of Arcadia in the English landscape became the pastime of the fashion conscious bourgeoisie and aristocracy , a gardening elite guided by the likes of Alexander Pope and William Kent among others.
Although Venus is the classical deity most commonly found adorning eighteenth century gardens, Pan certainly makes several startling appearances not only as the God of Arcadian beauty and shepherds, but also as a lustful and priapic spirit lurking in the shrubbery.

 At  William Kent’s masterpiece, Rousham Gardens in Oxfordshire, a powerful lead statue of Pan by Jan van Nost pays court (attended by a sinister satyr) to a retiring Venus in the secluded and magical Venus Vale.
 Pan steps away from the goddess, glancing over his shoulder whist the waiting satyr lurks in the wings awaiting his moment, a lustful leer on his face. Possibly the most beautiful  Arcadian landscape gardens in existence, they are charged with a latent eroticism quite palpable even after almost three centuries which emphasises their pleasure seeking function. After cavorting in the Venus Vale, visitors could then run along a winding woodland path to an icy plunge bath to quench their ardour.

At Rousham, Pan is just one of several classical deities and personalities that make an appearance, but at Painswick Gardens in Gloucestershire he reigns supreme, and alone presides over a private valley garden built specifically to host gentlemanly revels in his honour. The gardens were created by a wealthy Gloucester merchant, Benjamin Hyett, in the style that later became known as rococo (from the words rocaille-rocks and coquille-shells), and we are fortunate that they were recorded in detail in several paintings by the artist Thomas Robins (known as the limner of Bath). In two of these paintings Pan makes an appearance himself. Firstly in a view towards the village of Painswick and Hyetts House, Pan gestures with a raised arm to show onlookers the extent of his realm and in the other he watches a group of cavorting satyrs (possibly representing Hyett and his cronies) whilst a drunken Silenus lolls nearby, the scene being framed by an adornment of owls and other creatures on the night.

 Here it is necessary to quote the garden historian Tim Mole that “M R James in his Ghost stories of an Antiquary never invented an artefact more suggestive of Sylvan evil.”  In the first picture Robins has spelt Painswick,  Panswyke, i.e. The Village of Pan, and it seems clear that at this time there was a burgeoning cult of Pan in the area, headed by Hyett himself.

It is not possible to know if the cult existed as an excuse for drunken or orgiastic revelries (in the style of Sir Francis Dashwood’s Monks of Medmenham at Medmenham Abbey and West Wycombe)or as a serious attempt to pursue the worship of a Greek deity, but in the gardens a sinister and compelling statue of Pan (again by van Nost) was the centrepiece, placed so the god could see and be seen from all the garden buildings, and sited above a cold plunge bath where Hyett and his chums would engage in Sylvan revelries “with vulgar orange sellers”. (the statue is now placed nearer the house for security reasons).


Across the valley from the gardens, Hyett erected Pan’s lodge as a secluded bower to hold more private lupercalian festivities, away from prying eyes. He seems to have involved the entire village in his enthusiasm for his new found God, and established an annual Pan procession in which the villagers would parade through the streets chanting “Highgates! Highgates!”  This could be a corruption of “Hyetts! Hyetts!” or “aig aitis” meaning goat lover. It is interesting to note that in the classical period, young dogs were sacrificied to Pan, and a local dish served in Painswick was called Puppy-Dog pie, leading observers to think that actual canines were being consumed.  The procession lasted into the 1830’s, but was resurrected, perhaps surprisingly by the vicar of the village in the 1890’s. The Reverend W H Seddon, and enthusiastic scholar of folklore mistakenly believed that it was an ancient custom dating from antiquity, and even placed a statue of Pan by the church wall where the revellers would gather, which was still in place until the 1950’s.

From the time of the Reverend Seddon’s revival of the Pan cult at Painswick, to the start of the Great War, Pan reached his zenith in popularity in England, perhaps his most celebrated appearance (although he is not named) being in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

 Here Pan is revealed as a saviour of the animal and natural world in much the same way Jesus behaves towards humans and civilisation. His appearances in literature of the time are far too numerous to mention, but time and again he appears to rescue the seemingly staid and restrained English from the shackles of the Victorian era. In The Blessing of Pan by Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Lord Dunsany, a child finds and plays Pan’s pipes and transforms his staid and pious village into a joyous Pagan community. In Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham the author states that at this time “… God went out…Pan came in. In a hundred novels his cloven hoof left it’s imprint on the sward.”

It should be noted however, that the God’s bestial and priapic nature was not far below the veneer applied by the eco-idealism of the Edwardians. As well as deflowering Maugham’s “nymphs of the industrial age” he was depicted in being diverse in his sexuality in a number of stories and poems, the most famous of which A Hymn to Pan was penned by the arch occultist Alistair Crowley in reply to an explicit poem from his male lover.  In Arthur Machen’s chilling novella The Great God Pan (described on publication in 1894 as “an incoherent nightmare of sex”) he begets a demonic child on a captive woman, the child then going on to wreck vengeance on the male sex.

By the 1930’s however Pan’s popularity seemed to be in decline. Many of his champions were dead on the battlefields of Flanders (eg. Saki) or simply dying of old age at home, and the Arcadian idyll of the Edwardian era ruled by Pan and recorded by the likes of Kipling and Dunsany was fading fast. In 1950, the new incumbent of Painswick church took a dim view of Pan worship among his flock and removed the statue at his church and buried it. The situation did not look good for Pan, and Kipling’s Wayland from Puck of Pooks Hill springs to mind as he dwindles away from a powerful god to a mere wayside spirit.  



However Pan was rescued from this fate in the 1950’s by Gerald Brosseau Gardner,


 a Malay plantation owner recently returned to England.  Gardner sowed the seeds of a new religion, Wicca, which he claimed was a continuation of the secret religion practiced by European witches in the middle ages and early modern period.  Gardner was basing the supposedly ancient origins of his religion on two controversial books by Dr. Margaret Murray The witch cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1932) in which she claimed that the Christian Devil, was in fact a much older pre-christian deity, the Horned God called Cernunnos or Janicot in Europe and Pan in the Classical Medditeranean world.  Although most scholars (and indeed many adherents to Wicca) now accept this claim as misleading, the religion has grown in popularity, helped by it’s lack of dogma and it’s emphasis on green issues and care of the natural world. Wicca has two main deities, a Goddess and a God,  the latter almost invariably depicted with horns or antlers and often with the hind quarters of a goat, and is referred to not only as The Horned God, but often by one of his other names, Herne, Cernunnos or Pan.
carving by Bel Bucca


  Thus we see Pan is still at large in England, albeit through a form of symbiosis , but how else does a God survive?

Perhaps the best way to end this little study is with the words of two twentieth century followers of Pan

“The worship of Pan never has died out” said Mortimer “other newer Gods have drawn aside his votaries from time to time, but he is the native god to whom all must come back at last…” Saki
The Music on the Hill (1911)

From the olden days and up through all the years
From Arcadia to the stone fields of Inisheer
Some say the old gods are just a myth
But guess who I’ve been dancing with?
The Great God Pan is alive.

The Waterboys The Return of Pan (1993)




It should be noted that in writing this piece, I heavily plagiarised Professor Ronald Hutton's superb study of Wicca The Triumph of the Moon  and also drew heavily of Professor Tim Mole's studies of Painswick Gardens and Beacon House Painswick.


Friday, 8 June 2012

MEET THE ANCESTORS

As it is half term at the moment and particularly inclement weather, Mrs. Atticus and myself hauled the boys of to the Bristol Aquarium, which it has to be said was a jolly good morning out. I don't know much about fish, but I have always had a soft spot for crustaceans and jellyfish. The boys all enjoyed the trip too


George says "howdedo" to his great Uncle Obed (more shades of H P Lovecraft).




Thursday, 7 June 2012

A LONELY AND CURIOUS COUNTRY


The roller coaster ride of parenthood has kept me away from blogging, but I have found time to plug away at a couple of projects over the past week or so. The Strange Aeons board is coming along in fits and starts, halts occuring usually as I discover that I need glue, filler etc. Here is the work so far

A sort of compressed Dunwich village, complete with Sentinel Hill crowned with a circle of megaliths. I managed to glean the mdf and polystyrene out of the skip at work and have been stockpiling static grass and flock to texture the board after painting. A trip to Sydenhams the builders merchant today provided a decent size tin of black undercoat.

Other projects are bubbling away and I am getting the urge to paint some bigger figures again, or maybe some 28mm in a toy soldier style. The Imagi-nation can now proceed as I have finally purchased a tub of white gesso for undercoating and my Little Wars project is calling me too.... other temptations include doing some 1/72 fantasy stuff (Conan or Lord of the Rings).

Finally blogger seems to be all over the place with me at the moment which is curtailing my posting too.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Temple of Nodens

Following on my Lovecraftian theme, we took a trip over the Severn to Lydney Park today where there are some lovely gardens and a ruined Roman temple. The gardens of Lydney Park were laid out in the 1930's by Viscount Bledisloe and are open only a few days a year in the Spring when they are looking splendid, colour coming from a myriad range of Rhododendrons and Azaleas. The deciduous Azaleas were wafting their perfume throughout the valley, where there are series of interconnecting pools and streams

Some fine Gunnera manicata at the waters edge

A jolly hot day

Some stunning Rhododendrons


Perched on a hill above the valley are the remains of a fourth century temple dedicated to the god Nodens (a local deity). In H P Lovecraft's tales Nodens appears as a generally genial god who thwarts Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. The temple was excavated in the late 1920's by Sir Mortimer Wheeler aided by (among others) a young Professor called J R R Tolkien and it seems probable that news of the discoveries reached Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island.


The bath house


part of the entrance complex with the Severn visible in the background.


Ramsey Cambell wrote a series of Lovecraftian pastiches set in this area of England, creating sinister towns such as Temphill and Goatswood. Strangely the temple was built in the 360's, fourty years after the Roman Empire had converted to Christianity, but then this area has always had a reputation for witchcraft and paganism lingering on. The word witch comes from the old English Hwicce, the tribe that lived in these parts.... perhaps we were lucky to get home safely.







Friday, 18 May 2012

PAINTING FIGURES FOR STRANGE AEONS

What a hectic week. We have suddenly become busy at work (thank goodness) and are pulling out all the stops , buying in lots of lovely plants. The trade is so weather dependant, we are at the mercy of the elements. I also took delivery of a couple of DVDs this week. The X-Files season 4, and The Whisperer in Darkness (latter produced by the H P Lovercraft Historical Society)



, so I have been distracted by a) Gillian Anderson and b) six foot flying lobsters bent on world domination. I was a bit disappointed by the Whisperer having waited 3 years to see this film made, I hoped the HPLHS would have faithfully followed the original story but they turned it into a corny B-Movie with slightly horrific additions. The trailer they made was very good however and promised great things



Either way, eldritch horror has been high on the agenda (particularly this morning tackling George's nappy) and I have started making some scenery for the game Strange Aeons, hoping to make a gameboard based on Lovecraft's story The Dunwich Horror. Work in progress at the moment, but as it is a small project with few figures needed I may even get things finished. The boards for Strange Aeons is only 2' x 3' so it is possible to custom make terrain for different scenarios.

So far


Some Dunwich rustics and straw sucking hayseeds (mainly Redbox figures but the guy on the far left holding the rabbits is a Pegasus chap)


Professors Armitage, Rice and Morgan (Airfix)


The ill fated policemen (they get eaten) Redbox figures again.


Some of the Whateley clan's diseased cattle (Pegasus figures)


The Whateley House, boarded up to contain Wilbur's twin brother!!


The dark and tenebrous covered bridge that leads to Dunwich


the ruined church of Dunwich, now Osborne's General Stores.

More to follow soon..........