Saturday, January 28, 2017

Here Be Dragons!

A quick post for a wee victory dance. Long-time readers may recall that I've had a long-term ambition to find some of the old Grenadier Models Lord of the Rings minis to complete (or at least enhance) my existing set. I've also for even longer than that wanted to have my very own dragon miniature to paint. Well, consider the target reached and half-completed.

A chance car boot sale at a local school saw the Simian familty sauntering past on a dry run before an inevitable garage sale we'll be having some day soon. We brought money with us, but didn't really intend to spend any. But what did I see going there?

The Grenadier LotR sets - likely both the monsters and Fellowship (and Bill the Pony - I could kick myself!) together in a box, painted very nicely, and going for $15.

With them was a similar Grenadier box of orcs and Dwarves - also painted very nicely. $15

With them, a Mithril Minis diorama of Eowyn, Merry and the Lord of the Nazgul astride his Fel Beast. Unpainted. $10. And with that, a Ral Partha Armoured Dragon - simply undercoated and like the Tolkien diorama a tidy 25mm scale. Also a tenner.

Cue much hand-wringing and balancing out of cash reserved for the daily commute. In the end, I chose, and I think I chose wisely. Mithril and Ral Partha are companies who made quality minis back in the day, and I've always wanted something from both of their stables. And now I'm not only a dragon richer, but also a rather cool diorama to paint for my very own. The LotR set I left behind - and still I feel the pang. But hey, they were painted really really well by someone who loved them, so they've already had a great life, and I have over half the contents of that box already (don't mention Bill!) Hopefully someone got them in the end, and if they did they got a great deal.

As for me, I'm happy! But Metal Mountain just got that little bit higher.

PS: A note about the unboxing though - the Armoured Dragon is missing a foot. A shame, but not the end of the world. A missing piece means a story to add to the picture...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Back to School of Rock

I have over this holiday period been busy, and while I'm now but three days back at the zoo, I am of course a lot busier - but some activities haven't changed.

To what am I referring, you don't ask? Well, I have another work-related gig coming up. A musical one. To readers who know me probably also know that I had one of these last year, some fifteen years since I last played some form of live gig (my own wedding, in what would turn out to be the last ever time me and my old bandmates would ever be in a room together, let along playing impromptu.) The circumstances around this sudden return to treading pedals and dodging guitar leads are quite hum-drum; suffice it to say I was lured into a gathering of sales staff who shared a middle-aged musical itch and some degree of talent, and with a month or so's home practice and one kind of boozy actual rehearsal, once we were in the same town the day beforehand, we became the surprise entertainment for a company get-together in front of our working peers and managers. No pressure, then.

The exercise was as fruitful and inspiring as it was sphincter-tighteningly anxious. If I thought playing my own songs in front of friends and family with two drunk ex-bandmates might have been a challenge (and the wedding video offers little clue to the contrary), then a full set of varying covers and standards in front of colleagues was something else. Some return experiences in life can be wonderful - like stepping back into a comfy pair of slippers. This was (almost literally) like attempting to squeeze one's self into a pair of lycra pants from two decades before. I was not at my best on the night, and crucially aware that I stood among musicians much more talented and practiced than I - even in the simple art of looking like one knew what one was doing.

 But I won't lie; it was a very exciting experience, and it changed me for the better. I'm a better player for the limited practice time (YouTube is a godsend!), I have (pauses to grind teeth) a new respect for cover musicians that I never had to this point, because playing and muffing one's own works is a pretty fault-free form of creative expression - if you suck, then your songs suck and that's that. But sucking at playing a song everybody knows, and that somebody out there is almost certainly bound to be able to better you on, is quite another thing. So the discipline is a new thing- as is the joy of getting it right. It's a gamble, but a calculated one. And in one week's time I'm about to do it all over again at a different zoo.