Stoodley Pike from across the valley in Blackshaw Head, my home village.

Stoodley Pike. Taken from across the valley by Great Rock in Blackshaw Head, my home village a few days ago. The hill is the pike, not the monument. A common mistake. The hill is 400 metres, the monument 37 metres.

Today, I went to the top of the moor and stood in the face of the gale.

The tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo paid a visit to the Pennines, and I went purposefully up the mountain to swim in the rain and the wind.

There was no one else there. Only sheep chewing grass unconcernedly, and cows huddled in the lee of walls. Leaves that flew like birds, birds that were blown like leaves.

This is why I love Yorkshire. Every inch of Britain has felt the touch of man. There are no pristine landscapes here. The wildest seeming – often these are the heaviest handled. Made by our ancestors unintentionally, and tended to maintain that form today. They are unintentional gardens, wilderness in error.

Although no one can call the landscapes of high Yorkshire natural, they are at least honestly wild. Mankind’s hand sits but lightly on the moors, and on days like today it appears to withdraw entirely.

Some find it bleak. I was born in this part of the world. I can see the grimness of it, the endless dun hill tops and grey crags, but I enjoy that very bleakness. For its sense of defiance, if nothing else. Defiance of the worst the Atlantic can throw at it, defiance of the people who sought to change it. Even as the forests make a stealthy return to the valleys, the high moor remains more or less as it has been for millennia.

To be home is to belong. I was smart enough to realise early what I wanted in life was right under my feet, wise enough in a callow way to know I had to go away to find it. I was away too long, perhaps. I am glad I am back now.

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Rainbow over Hebden Bridge, taken today below Erringden moor.

This has been a poor week. My wife suffers in her career. Everyone is stressed. My son has slipped a little at school, most certainly because of the move.

This morning that did not matter.

Yorkshire is called God’s own country. To go outdoors here for a while… Every walk is a minor exercise in mountaineering. To ascend quickly, if breathlessly, then look down from great height. There is a sense of Olympian detachment to the view. No wonder Yorkshiremen are so opinionated.

I say to my wife as often as needed that there is always a way out. Sometimes I find it hard to believe what I say.

But not on days like this, not on days when the world is hand-tinted by the season. When rain falls over the valley in visible fusillade, dark as bombs, and the sun is mysterious behind the veil of it. When golden grass whips in the storm, ferns are of pale bronze, oak leaves are copper, birch are of brass. Today the world was a treasure box. Trite, I know, but invigorating to experience, and I feel like recording it.

I became a writer to be free. I value my freedom. I am not naive enough – or perhaps not optimistic enough – to think revolution can free us all. I have known several revolutionaries. They are usually confounded, and often angry. Instead I have worked quietly to free myself. With the promise I would help others when I could, but a selfish aim nonetheless.

Freedom is a rare commodity in this age. Fate turns against us all, ruthless cogs of circumstance and culture that brook no dissent. My stock of freedom is precious, and dwindling.

But on the moors, alone with the storm, there is a freedom that is always there.

There is always a way out.

Another Black Templar

Posted: October 19, 2014 in Gaming
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Initiate number 2. These are taking me about four hours each to paint, so don’t expect to see them on a tabletop any time soon.


Mars Attacks, Uruk-hai and Black Templars.

Mars Attacks (Benny did those, not bad for a six year-old), Uruk-hai and Black Templars. And a random dice I found in a bag pocket, dropped on the floor and then kept painfully treading on. I should just put it in the tin with the others. Lazy.


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Oooh! Pretty trees. I took this in Calderholme Park in Hebden Bridge while I was out walking the dog this morning. Predictably, Magnus was after some other dog’s ball and I had to deploy a biscuit to lure him off. He’s a menace with other people’s balls, he really is. Ahem.


Here’s the Black Templar I’ve painted this week. I’m quite pleased with this one. My edge highlighting is getting better.

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For this first “normal” (is there such a thing?) Space Marine, I thought I’d go right back to the roots of the hobby, and paint a chap in Mark VI armour.

I used the upgrade frame in building my Black Templars.  The parts on it are very cool. I’m especially looking forward to painting my next Space Marine, which has a helmet and chestpiece from the upgrade set. I intend to follow examples from the Forgeworld books, which show a great deal of variation of colour scheme and equipment within each faction, and paintings of Black Templars, which show a lot of personalisation to Initiates’ battleplate. Expect a fair degree of individuality .

As Black Templars have such a contrasting colour scheme I have been undercoating them in pieces. I sprayed the robed torso fronts and shoulder pads white, the rest black. Painting white over black is frankly horrible. Different undercoats give a much smoother finish. To do this I drilled holes in my undercoating “man stick” (a piece of 1×2″ wood I stick my models to for undercoating) and blu-tacked the pieces to cocktail sticks stuck into the holes.

I have also been only partially assembling the models before painting, gluing on shoulder pads and – where appropriate – weapons later in the painting process. Doing rank and file troopers as sub-assemblies might seem like an enormous faff, but I can paint all areas properly and the results are better. Plus it means I only ever play with painted models.


A DVD review originally printed in Death Ray #20.

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Director: Chris Fisher

Writers: Nathan Atkins, Richard Kelly (characters)

Starring: Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty, Ed Westwick, John Hawkes

Film: TWO STARS

Extras: THREE AND A HALF STARS

 A sequel to Donnie Darko! Um, why? That’s what we want to know.

Donnie Darko is love-it-or-hate it cinema, an alchemical cocktail two parts disquieting philosophy, three parts David Lynch, one part teen moping and just the tiniest drop of SF. But its dark view of young adult life came with a certain catharsis, Donnie’s life was expunged fulfilling a role forced on him by the universe itself, it was a powerful metaphor for growing up. At least, that’s the way I saw it. And that was why it was so great – it is infinitely interpretable.

s. Darko is not. A movie reverse-engineered from the smouldering remains of the first, it doesn’t get it right at all. There’s uncertainty, ambiguity, atmosphere as in the original, but these have been self-consciously placed into the structure. The story, concerning Donnie’s kid sister Sam lost in deepest Utah, chooses friendship and sacrifice as its themes, but it lacks the freaky otherliness of Donnie Darko. Furthermore, it relies on robbing a handful of keynotes from the first, diminishing then reversing them, so the film never manages to be anything other than a pale reflection of its predecessor. (An effect of this grave robbing is that all seemingly Godly men in the Darkoverse are represented as evil paedophiles. It’s a shamefully easy target). There’s beautiful cinematography throughout, but the lack of soul leaves these sequences as nothing more than pretentious pop-video images gilding an average tale of small town weirdness.

Critically, s. Darko lacks the weird vision of Richard Kelly. Donnie Darko is a flawed movie; that it intrigues fans may well be a happy accident, but it has the artistic integrity of one man’s madness. s. Darko is a wholly artificial construct.

Extras: A 15 minute making of, a 10 minute music video where the cast bitch about being in Utah, director’s commentary and a handful of deleted scenes.