Happy Christmas to all my Man of TIN blog readers – wishing you many shiny toys!
Image: From a lovely old 1978 British Royal Mail stamp set of Christmas customs (see below), the 13p stamp postcard is in my 1580s – 1590s / 1940 “Arma-Dads Army” Elizabethan Sealion project scrapbook. New summary blog page for this project here:
During my childhood, my late dad as a lifelong stamp collector used to buy me the postcard versions and sometimes the highly educational presentation packs or first day covers, which had insert pages all about the stamp topic. Stamp collecting and model railways are two of the family hobbies in the blood (in a malarial or genetic way) that I am resisting from lack of time, storage, space and money.
Happy Christmas to all my readers & fellow bloggers from Mark Man of TIN!
Happy Christmas from thewhole Man of TIN family of spin off blogs:
Man of TIN blog two – all set up ready for when I fill up and run out of my free 3GB WordPress Man of TIN blog site sometime in early 2022.
Who knows what Christmas and the New Year will bring? Keep safe and well, here’s wishing you happiness and health, if not wealth. Whatever happens, we have our marvellous hobby to enrich our lives and deplete the coffers.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, Christmas Eve, 24 December 2021
This set was designed in 1978 by British artist and book illustrator Faith Jacques(1923–1997) who had an interesting wartime career as a WREN (Women’s Royal Navy Service):
“She was posted toOxford where she was stationed in the New Bodleian Library. Her duties included control of a filing department containing over a million photographs, holiday snaps included, of Germany andOccupied Europe, with particular attention given to pictures of coastlines and village approaches.” Wikipedia source.
The 13p (most expensive) stamp design was the 16th Century carollers singing the Boars Head Carol.
Unlike many in the world I am fortunate enough, being of “the Airfix generation” and clinically vulnerable, to have had my third Covid ‘booster’ jab on Friday. Thanks NHS.
**** Pre-emptive note: Any Anti Vaxxers or conspiracy theorists who are upset reading this first paragraph, please note that I am not debating this topic on my hobby blog or for that matter, politics or religion either. Enjoy the toys instead. Thank you.****
Knowing that I might feel a bit rough, as indeed I have done with the common side effects of aches, tiredness and headaches, I planned a quiet weekend with two good books to see me through.
The Timpo Model Toys (A to Z of TIMPO) 4th edition 2020 by Michael Maughan
This was a family gift, as I ‘look after’ the family “hand-me-down” collection of Timpo 54mm / 1:32 figures.
It is a great little book, akin to the Airfix OOHO reference books, and fully colour illustrated. This will help greatly in putting our surviving collection back together as close as I can manage – right legs, heads, torsos, horses etc. – with a slight nod towards Timpo purism!
Available through Amazon (Amazon Createspace online publishing) at a very reasonable £26.
The book has the cheerful feel of a Plastic Warrior magazine series of articles, which is what it originally developed from. Fourth edition – this is obviously an ongoing labour of love for the writer Michael Maughan.
The book covers only the ‘swoppet’ style plastic Timpo range, not the solid Action Pack boxed figures or original metal hollowcasts.
Seeing the illustrations of packaging, buildings and the railway stuff was a rare treat, and this book ultimately saves me from bankruptcy having to track down, buy and store this stuff!
I didn’t buy many Timpo ‘swoppet’ type figures myself, except the Vikings and a few WW2 figures (probably in the Toyway packaging). Most came down to me through the family toy box, a motley collection of knights, romans, Mexicans and Wild West figures alongside a few solid Action Pack figures.
Usually the weapons were missing, losable parts being one of the things that I disliked about Timpo and Britain’s Deetail, especially when gaming in the garden.
No Timpo purist as a child (or now), all of these figures were mixed together in my skirmish games alongside a happy medley of 60s plastics, Airfix and my own Britain’s Deetail figures. I played with what we had. Our few Timpo figures, both solid and swoppet, provided some great character figures.
Timpo, like Airfix, sadly crashed out c. 1980 in the Great British toy company apocalypse of the early Eighties, so supplies of much of the fun stuff (waggons, railways, buildings) was not around for me to buy. This ‘boom and bust’ supply drought or even complete wipeout of toy ranges still affects my approach to collecting gaming figures today – buy them when you see them, even if you have to store them away in the ‘next Christmas’ cupboard!
The Timpo wagons etc. looked really good alongside hollowcast and early plastic figures in F.E. Perry’s Second Book of Wargaming which I bought in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Oddly I didn’t find the First Book (of Wargaming) to make it all make sense until a few years ago, a gap of almost forty years.
Looking through, I don’t recall seeing many of the short lived 1970s Timpo ranges at all in toy shops, even if I had the pocket money.
This fascinating A to Z of Timpo book by Michael Maughan showed me what I had missed. It’s a little like having a book of beasts or birds which became extinct within living memory. Well worth buying.
Timpo rarity value?
About ten to fifteen years ago whilst sorting our family 1960s-70s toy collection, we sold off a small handful of some spare Timpo bodies and bits that did not make up whole figures. We were astonished when one torso went for £20 to £30 on eBay, obviously we had a rare-ish colour variation without knowing.
Not missed – from a purely gaming point of view, who cares about the rarity of colour combinations?
My second book to curl up with this weekend:
The Folklore of Yorkshire by Kai Roberts (The History Press 2013)
This book is a lucky survivor of Storm Arwin blowing open our parcels box and soaking the contents. There’s wuthering for you!
Fortunately a shiny book cover and the very soggy Blackwells cardboard eco packaging took the brunt of the water and protected the contents.
Haworth gets the odd mention, the Brontes very few.
What struck me was the overlap in English folklore from my ancestral Cornish folklore and the Yorkshire versions. The fairish, fairy, changeling or elf stories were very similar. This was of interest to me because the Bronte sisters (and brother Branwell) had a Cornish mother and aunt.
Admittedly some overlap in folklore was by direct migration – the ‘ghostly shift’ tales of Yorkshire miners were similar to those of the Cornish hard rock miners with their tales of mine spirits (known as “Knockers”). Skilled Cornish miners were recruited to other mining districts in Britain or they emigrated further afield, especially when times were hard.
Anyway an interesting book on Yorkshire folklore that joins the Cornish folklore and Bronte books on my book shelf.
Beyond the Booster bleurrgh?
Normal ‘gaming butterfly’ blogging service will hopefully soon be resumed, booster bleurgh over. Hobby blogging is usually interrupted or slowed as it is each year at this time by the dark winter nights, festive preparations and working for a living.
My Battling Bronte Sisters (and Branwell!) are almost done, painted and based. Photographing them close up always throws up a few area to finish.
When they are not role playing their heroic parts in their juvenilia ImagiNations of Glass Town, Angria, Gaaldine and Gondal, they are all of course battling with the Dark Forces of Yarkshire folklore.
What started out as two packs of Bad Squiddo ‘Little Wolves’ (youngsters or child sized figures in Annie Norman’s 28mm Amazon Range) have been subtly converted to capture some of the make-believe of children at play.
I thought that they could be painted both as dressed as children role playing games and as heroic figures tackling Dark folkloric forces of Yarkshire.
Distinguishing the sisters is usually done by hair colour, especially in films.
I referred to the famous Bronte portrait by Branwell (centre, who later painted himself out) as well as the recent BBC drama To Walk Invisible for my colour palette.
Reddish hair – Anne – painted in grey with red sash
Brown hair – Emily – painted with longer skirt and green tunic, red belt
Black hair – Charlotte – painted with blue dress and red sash
Clothes – I kept the colour scheme quite dark coloured, sober and practical for parsons’ daughters in wet damp Tropical Yorkshire, even through early Victorians were often more colourful than our image of sober Late Victorians.
Image: Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town. She uses the same hair colour system.
All paints were Matt Revell Aquacolor Acrylics, starting with a Matt black undercoat.
Faces – in keeping with the overall drab Matt colours of their clothes, boots or clogs etc, I avoided my usual bright gloss colours and toy soldier faces with pink cheek dots etc. Instead I chose a subtle mouth or lip colour ( a trace of carmine red) and a darker flesh using Revell Afrikabraun (or desert brown) instead of flesh.
To add that grungy, muddy feel of children out on the moors or getting mucky playing around the Parsonage, I used a brown shade or wash of Citadel Agrax Earthshade on flesh, faces and folds.
The Branwell ‘problem’
The two packs I bought from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo were all female.
As I failed to find any suitable 28mm boy figures, I set about converting one of the girl figures into a red haired brother Branwell boy figure.
Filing down an excess of plaited hair, I covered the rest of the luscious plaited locks with an old hooded travelling cape (it were wet, dark and cold up on those moors) made of tissue paper and PVA.
I considered adding breeches or trousers with tissue paper and PVA but thought that Branwell as a boy was the only one in Victorian times who could get away with bare legs and ankles. The parson’s three surviving daughters probably could not.
Branwell’s poems show a familiarity with the classical and heroic epic, so I painted him bare legged, just wearing his ankle boots. His trouser legs are probably rolled up and he is wearing an old smock to look like a classical hero with tunic and cape. All make-believe or possibly real, playing around with that dual use notion.
Branwell (left) and Charlotte (right). Branwell’s cloak hood needs defining by shadow.
Basing is onto 1 penny MDF bases from Warbases, with PVA used to fix a rough mix of grassy flock and fine Cornish beach sand to suggest the moors. Appropriate enough as the Bronte children’s mother was born and grew up in Penzance, not far from the source beach in Cornwall.
Hopefully gritty and northern enough? Until I can go up on the moor and gather some proper Yarkshire grit and dirt.
Battling the Bronte Sisters
These figures are great for duelling games using simple ‘parry and lunge’ (Gerard de Gre) dice or card rules from Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming.
Famous as the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson is less well known as an early war gamer.
His role as ” grandfather” or “great uncle” in the history of wargaming (depending where you place H.G. Wells) was acknowledged by “father of the modern wargame” Donald Featherstone in his book War Games (1962), a book that began the hobby careers of so many of us.
These words struck me whilst rereading Little Wars as being a lesser noticed quote than the oft quoted title and subtitle:
Little Wars (A Game for Boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books) by H.G. Wells.
How had I not noticed these words?
“LITTLE WARS” is the game of kings—for players in an inferior social position. It can be played by boys of every age from twelve to one hundred and fifty—and even later if the limbs remain sufficiently supple — by girls of the better sort, and by a few rare and gifted women.”
“And in all ages a certain barbaric warfare has been waged with soldiers of tin and lead and wood, with the weapons of the wild, with the catapult, the elastic circular garter, the peashooter, the rubber ball, and such-like appliances—a mere setting up and knocking down of men. Tin murder. The advance of civilisation has swept such rude contests altogether from the playroom. We know them no more….”
There in a few jovial lines by Wells you have glimpses of the inequalities of the Late Victorian, Edwardian or pre-WW1 Class system, unenfranchised labour and gender of those of ‘an inferior social position’ to Kings, Empire and ‘Civilisation’.
I have yet to find any historical evidence of who these “rare and gifted women” who played Little Wars may have been, if in fact they really existed.
Maybe they were Wells’ hopeful prediction for the future, that there would be female gamers one day in the future?
Wells was intelligent and interested enough in the lives of women (no snickering at the back!) to have understood maybe a little more than most men of the time the frustrations and restrictions of Victorian and Edwardian women’s lives and aspirations, ones that would be briefly brought to light by women’s work in the First World War.
But which ‘sort’ of girl? I am reminded of the ‘girls of the better sort‘ of early pioneering Edwardian Girl Scouts that spontaneously and enthusiastically set up their own scout patrols in response to Baden Powell’s Scouting for Boys publications, before they were reorganised into the slightly more passive and socially acceptable Girl Guides. but that’s another story …
Important to remember that this is not autobiography, this is not H.G. Wells speaking as himself, it is the words of the fictional main narrator Dick recalling childhood.
Note: I have put notable or interesting servant, class and gender words in bold:
“I find this empire of the floor much more vivid and detailed in my memory now than many of the owners of the skirts and legs and boots that went gingerly across its territories.
Occasionally, alas! they stooped to scrub, abolishing in one universal destruction the slow growth of whole days of civilised development. I still remember the hatred and disgust of these catastrophes.
Like Noah I was given warnings. Did I disregard them, coarse red hands would descend, plucking garrisons from fortresses and sailors from ships, jumbling them up in their wrong boxes, clumsily so that their rifles and swords were broken, sweeping the splendid curves of the Imperial Road into heaps of ruins, casting the jungle growth of Zululand into the fire.
“Well, Master Dick,” the voice of this cosmic calamity would say, “you ought to have put them away last night. No! I can’t wait until you’ve sailed them all away in ships. I got my work to do, and do it I will.”
And in no time all my continents and lands were swirling water and swiping strokes of house-flannel.
That was the worst of my giant visitants, but my mother too, dear lady, was something of a terror to this microcosm. She wore spring-sided boots, a kind of boot now vanished, I believe, from the world, with dull bodies and shiny toes, and a silk dress with flounces that were very destructive to the more hazardous viaducts of the Imperial Road.
She was always, I seem to remember, fetching me; fetching me for a meal, fetching me for a walk or, detestable absurdity! fetching me for a wash and brush up, and she never seemed to understand anything whatever of the political Systems across which she came to me.
Also she forbade all toys on Sundays except the bricks for church-building and the soldiers for church parade, or a Scriptural use of the remains of the Noah’s Ark mixed up with a wooden Swiss dairy farm …
My mother did not understand my games, but my father did …”
Quoted from H.G. Wells, The New Machiavelli, 1911
Again this is Wells’ main narrator character Dick speaking, not Wells directly himself.
Apocalyptic destruction happens not just in sci-fi War of the Worlds but also in the playroom.
Little Wars and Floor Games have a more autobiographical feel, mixed with Wells’ multiple personas as the eternal boy, Good Uncle, understanding parent (or father), comic writer and social satirist. There is an echo of giants and tiny men from Gulliver’s Travels. There is the social scientist or science teacher Wells with his “Microcosm”.
Both books are such a rich and interesting read.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 30/31 October 2021
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Interesting to compare Wellsian Floor Games with those of his acquaintance and contemporary author Edith Nesbit or E. Nesbit who I was posting about last Janaury:
On their way in the post, I have on order two packs of 28mm “Little Wolves” (Amazons range) from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo Games.
These will represent each of the three Bronte sisters in combat “role playing” in their fictional ImagiNations of Gondal, GlassTown, Angria and Gaaldine.
This will provide me the three sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne – and one spare (a friend?)
This should give me a focus for #FEMBruary 2022 – Each February, miniature or figure painters and gamers choose to paint or model believable female miniatures as part of a challenge by fantasy gamer and modeller Imperial Rebel Ork.
I will look around for a suitable brother Branwell 28mm figure, once I have ‘met’ his sisters. To me, he is usually portrayed on screen as Naughty Norman Price of Ponty Pandy, straight out of Fireman Sam.
Being a figure converter and tinkerer, an improvised tissue paper sash or two might feature to flesh out the girls’ ImagiNations uniforms, inspired by Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town.
Isabel Greenberg’s superb Glass Town graphic novel shows the Bronte sisters and brother in their ImagiNations uniforms.
I can easily see these fighting sisters being up and at ’em, duelling against other fantasy or historical figures in roughly 28mm scale – zombies, skeletons, regency dandies and assorted Bronte ImagiNations bad guys in Pride Prejudice and Zombies style – as this slides into gothic, RPG or fantasy gaming…
Bad Squiddo Figures
I have previously enjoyed painting Bad Squiddo figures of Land Girls for my ‘boycraft’ entry for my local flower and veg show, crafts section in 2019.
As a gamer with a love of toy soldiers and ImagiNations gaming, I have a lot of time for the Brontes and their intricate fictional Regency and early Victorian worlds of Gondal, Glasstown, Gaaldine and Angria.
If you don’t know them, check out the excellent recent books based on these tiny Bronte manuscripts – Celia Rees’ Glass Town Wars and the graphic novel Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg.
You might also know them through the 1960s children’s fiction book The Return of The Twelves (or Twelve and the Genie) by Pauline Clarke, based on the Bronte children’s original wooden toy soldiers.
The Bronte sisters Emily, Charlotte and Anne and brother Branwell created childhood and teenage imaginary Napoleonic worlds (paracosms) in tiny handwritten books of poetry, prose, drawings and fictional newspaper adverts in the 1830s and 1840s in Yorkshire.
Were the Bronte children some of the first wargamers, ImagiNations gamers and Historical Fantasy RPG players?
I have been playing Bronte inspired ImagiNations games for a number of years now – check out my page for them on my blog here:
That is why I am supporting the campaign by UK libraries and The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth Yorkshire to keep some of these precious manuscripts of the Law Collection in the Honresfield Library in this country and at their birthplace, rather than disappear into private collections after auction.