Button Counting and Concrete Sniffing in the Netherlands

Extreme Mountain Biking in GelderlandCycling

Suzanne has long wanted to cycle on the Continent. Holland is civilized, cycle friendly, stuffed full of good restaurants and flat; so the choice of where to go was easy. Gelderland over on the East of Holland is not much visited by the British, which is puzzling, as the cycling is excellent. We hired two local Dutch cycles for the week, basing ourselves in LOCHEM.

We soon discovered that although we were reasonably cycle fit by UK standards,  grannies with panniers full of shopping kept overtaking us, and small children too (two to a bike with the pillion sitting on the cycle rack)! By the end of the week as we got the hang of the more relaxed Dutch gearing, the grannies were at least puffing a bit as they continued to tear past us on their way to their fit, active ’90s. The area has a well-marked network of cycle tracks with excellent signage. Junctions are numbered and all route signs point towards  the relevant junction number.

A Typical Forest Cycle Route in GelderlandCycle Helmets are not Compulsary

On larger roads, cyclists have their own lanes that they share with mopeds and mobility scooters, but not motorbikes. Some suburban streets are marked up as cycle streets with “cars as guests”. Drivers seem more patient than in Britain. All in all, your chances of being taken out by a 40 tonner are far lower than in the UK.

Cycle Friendly Street in Holland

“Yes, yes,” you say, “but what about the button counting?”

Button Counting

In the area that we stayed, it was the custom for various princely estates to display their colours on the wooden shutters. The inner button counter in me was not sufficiently diverted from Grolsch* beer to collect the full set, but here are some to give a flavour:

Heraldic Window Shutters in LochemEstate house displaying Livried window shuttersThe Dutch have a cheerful attitude to souping up carsLuchtmuseum

I can confirm from original source material that Trebian’s Gnome Army uniforms are 100% accurate. Expect an Osprey to follow. This little fellow is just outside Holland’s largest Maze (which is very small and neat).

Primary Research for Peter Pig's Gnome Army

Concrete Sniffing

LOCHEM is the site of a lesser-known 43rd Wessex Division Memorial. Their main one is on Hill 112 at CAEN. I had not realised, or gone looking for, the connection to the Sherwood Foresters in St Mary’s church Bottesford, where I grew up

43rd Wessex Division Monument in LOCHEM43rd Wessex Division Monument in LOCHEM - Subunits

The Open Air Museum just to the north of ARNHEM is well worth a visit**. We drove along the RHENE, contemplating just how miserable a swim would have been on an autumn night. After an overnight stop in OTTERLO, site of the last large battle in Holland, we visited the Kröller-Müller sculpture park and its collection of bizarre and often baffling sculptures. General de Wet’s statue lives here on a sandy heath in the Hoge Veluwe National Park***.

On our way home, we stopped overnight in GORINGCHEM, another throat-clearing town that still has a medieval town plan and a Vauban style trace****.The picture below illustrates how low the earthen glacis is. It runs from the right of the gate across the base of the windmill. Missing are the willows or poplars that would have been planted on the glacis to stabilise it, then have been cut down to make gabions in an emergency. Sight lines have been eroded since the 18th century.

The City Walls of GORINGCHEM

GORINGCHEM is slap in the middle of the ‘new’ Hollandse Waterlinie, an 85km long defensive area some 3-5km deep combining defensive works and planned inundations. In deference to Chris Ager and Airfix, I posed in front of a cannon. Concrete sniffing accomplished, we came home.

Cannon on the City Wall at Goringchem

Language Notes

Hallo is the universal greeting. After that it gets difficult very quickly!

Asking politely “Spreekt U Engelsk?” usually elicited the response “a liddle bit,” followed by excellent English. The best response was in a seafront restaurant at the Hook of Holland: “Of course, I went to school.”

Advice is to speak English. German and French are less popular  even though German is well understood on the eastern border. Several times people would come up to us to enquire if we were lost as we consulted our map, and we were always at pains to thank them.

Bizarrely, one local told us (in relatively halting English) that he was a retired German teacher. Bizarrely, because he had taken me for German initially, and I had asked him in German where the cycle route out of town was. He quickly worked out that I was not a native German speaker and flipped over to English out of politeness, even though his German was much easier to understand.

My attempts at speaking Dutch were met by bafflement and the encouraging cheerfullness that adults display when children are trying hard. I like the Dutch and plan to continue my assault on their beer and language in equal measure.

Concrete Sniffing Accomplished!

* to pronounce the ‘G‘ imagine a Scottish lo’CH‘ starting with a silent G and finishing with all the phlegm in your throat nicely cleared. The ‘sch‘ comes out as a long ‘sss‘. Pointing also works!

** ARNHEM was a bridge too far for us to fit in as well. The open air museum only qualifies as a concrete sniff by virtue of the memorial for refugees evacuated from the museum during the war. It is home to the National Airline Sick Bag Collection  however. This is housed in the ceiling of a replica airline cabin. I really am not making this up – look, here’s a picture. Unmissable!

The Dutch National Airline Sick Bag Collection

*** de Wet, one of the ones that trounced us in the Boer War. Moving swiftly on …

**** Pronounced gCHorCH’m by the locals. Have a cough drop after getting it right!


Filed under Off Topic

Flatpack Moscow 4 – Gorky Park

Six hundred and forty one windows later, MOSCOW is looking fairly complete.I really enjoyed painting this project for a few minutes each evening, just chilling out.


Moscow looking north west

One late addition to the city is the treeline at GORKY PARK (Парк горького). I kept thinking that the northeast corner of the city was a little bare, so trees were the answer.


Moscow looking south west

Spring/high summer won out over the more colourful autumn or the equally tempting bare branches of winter. I couldn’t resist adding a few tables with parasols.

IMGP0143 The summer delights of Gorky Park

It is tempting to keep faffing and adding more detail, but the template is ready to game with. Saint Basil’s can wait for now. I shall hunt for some more suitable statues than the Space marines some day.

IMGP0140 Moscow looking south east

The Kremlin and Red Square are looking suitably red, but they will have to wait until the city is retaken for a proper May Day parade. The Fascists may yet be strutting up and down for a while longer.

IMGP0144Red Square looking south east

IMGP0141Moscow looking north east


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, Modelling, WWII

Flatpack Moscow 3

The city template has been blocked out with a blue-green-grey undercoat. The aim will be to have the brighter colours on the older buildings in the city centre, with more grey,  burning and shell holes out on the outskirts.

Moscow_04Moscow_05Moscow looking West

The city is divided into cells, being differentiated by black lines and different ground colours. North is off to the right of the picture below.


Phil Steele very kindly gave me a Celtic cross that he had spare. I briefly toyed with the idea of leaving it silver, as a tribute to his celebrated technique of headswopping just before a battle!

Moscow_06Moscow_11Moscow looking North

As the rows of windows advance, the city is beginning to take on three dimensions, despite the buildings being flat facades. For me, the illusion is complete, but then I’m easily pleased. I don’t mind that some of the original stations and St Basil’s are in 3-D, or that some of the doors and buildings are in different scales. The discrepancies are lost in the welter of detail.

Moscow_08Moscow looking East

Moscow_09Moscow looking South. Muscovites will be looking closely to see if they can see their house from here!


Filed under Eastern Front, Modelling, WWII

Flatpack Moscow 2

With the help of cork tiles, card and the odd bit of plastic detrius, the new skyline of MOSCOW is rising. The Vandal tourists pulling wheelies down Dmitrovskoya Street, (a stunt that they never pulled off in real life), are just for you Arthur!


Initially, I found putting the square windows on to be a bit of a chore, but it soon became quite theraputic when done to the strains of Salut Salon or something relaxing.


St Basil’s still needs work, but the cork will be ready for painting soon. Just another 100 or so windows to go! If I ever think of doing steampunk, please talk me out of it someone. Rivets – *shudder*



Filed under Modelling, WWII

Liebsters – Hate ‘em – but Thanks

Actually it’s chain letters that I hate; but as Graham Evans, (thanks Graham), gave me a mention on the Liebster Award without telling me that his Great Aunt in South Africa has recently passed away, mentioned me in her will and needs my bank account details, I have no grounds to be curmudgeonly.

1. Why did you start blogging?
Much easier than updating a website that Virgin kept throttling.

2. If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?
The minority aversion to soap and speciality men’s grooming products, such as toothpaste.

3. What is best in life?
Oh God! Another Emmy Award opportunity to forget to mention the one person who is going end up putting on the Pouty Bat Face.


Nobody else cares that I love my Wife, Mother and Friends. I’m certainly not going to confess to any obsessive addiction to computer games or studying obscure ailments of the lower limb, or beer, or WarHamster 40p, or fast women. It has to be kayaking!

Warhamster 40K Black Templar by ursulav

4. Do you want to live forever?

When the planet is engulfed in firey ashes, you will still not have started the first measurable picofraction of your existence. Does the questioner not understand how infinity works?


5. Fame or fortune?
I’m already infamous as Gale Porter’s stunt double.

6. What miniatures are you most proud of having painted?
The Airfix LEM that used to sit in the entrance lobby of Frederick Gough Grammer School back in 1969.

7. How do you deal with burn out?
Fresh fuel and firelighters. 

Leningrad Cowboys8. Why is a raven like a writing desk?
Because writing desks clearly also like to hang about by motorways pecking out the eyes of roadkill.


9. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Babylon 5.

10. If you could only buy from one miniature company from now on, which one would it be?
Spencer Smith. But it’s hypothetical, so I’m going to carry on purchasing from Peter Pig, PSC, Zvezda and all the others.

11. What is your favourite takeaway?

Frikadelle mit Pommes und Mayo bitte – kein Senf.

Most everyone else already has been nominated. That’s the problem of coming in at the end of these pyramid nomination schemes. Instead, I’ve updated my sidebar a little … enjoy

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Off Topic

Flatpack Moscow

The Axis powers have been occupying a purpose-built MOSCOW tile  for some time now, but before its next game it is time to add a few more flat vertical dividers in the style of KHARKOV. Here is the baseboard before it gets the Ikea makeover. The NKVD would approve of the wild inaccuracy of this German intelligence model of the city for briefing LittleHitler.


This is the view a Heinkel pilot would have trying to bomb the centre of Moscow:


And here is how the model usually appears from the east with its fill-in buildings. Native Muscovites are entitled to look confused at this point:


I have a thing about the colour of concrete. Our minds tell us that it is Portland Cement grey. In reality it is usually dustier, lighter and more of a biscuit shade. Even so, MOSCOW needs greying a little to get rid of the African Shanty Town look. Blackadder may feel that more elephants and fewer armament factories are needed. To be continued …


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Modelling, WWII