IMG_2870 I’ve been reading about Space Marines for the last fortnight as I attempt to catch up on the Horus Heresy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has induced an urge to paint power-armoured post-humans, so I added another warrior to my Crusader Squad. As this unit can take an additional specialist melee weapon, I’ve given him a power fist. Smush! Bzzt! Crush!

On this model I experimented with the Blood for the Blood God  technical paint, to make him look like a killer (they are, after all, fanatical zealots). Next time, I must remember to put it on after I’ve applied my usual coat of Winsor and Newton Matt varnish, otherwise you lose that fresh gory look. Obviously.

Not a bad job, but the models always look better in real life. Photographs mercilessly expose every dodgy highlight, speck of dust and missed millimetre of detail. Seeing my perfectly painted mini become a botched maze of overly thick paint and shakily applied line effects only intensifies my respect for the ‘Eavy Metal painters.

I’ve now painted twelve Black Templars over the last year – pretty much one a month. At this rate, I’ll be out conquering the galaxy by the actual 41st Millennium. Fear me.

Enormous rocks

Posted: April 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

The moors and woods around here are full of massive bloody rocks. Not quite Monument Valley size, but still larger than many other famous rocks in the UK. Layered strata of shale and very hard sandstone called Millstone Grit (it’s gritty, they used to make millstones out of it) exposed to lots of rain and gale-force winds, oftentimes together, give some very fine formations. But strangely, they’re not that well known. Here are a few I’ve taken pictures of over the last few months. There are literally hundreds more.


A pinnacle of rock in front of the Hell Hole rocks quarry. Local legend (or at least the schoolyard version I heard as a child) has it that the quarry owner sold his soul for riches, hence the name. My dog Magnus is in the foreground. I saw a peregrine falcon up there a couple of weeks ago.


The Bottleneck Bride at the Bridestones (it’s about 20 feet tall). This collection of rocks is a mile away from my parent’s house. This one of my favourite places in the Calder valley. It’s the tallest summit actually bordering the valley itself, and can be seen for miles – the really tall hills can only be seen from the very tops of the moor. There’s hardly ever anyone there despite the magnificence of the stones and the views.


These are part of the Bridestones also, one of about two dozen equally impressive formations at the site. Six-year-old boy included for scale purposes. The name “Bride” probably comes from the Celtic goddess “Brigid”. West Yorkshire was once the kingdom of Elmet, a holdout of the Celtic peoples in the face of Saxon colonisation. There a number of names with “wal” in them signifying “welsh” villages (foreign – at least from a Saxon point of view), so they probably lasted a long time as a distinct culture. In fact, according to a recent study, their genetic marker is still dominant in our population.

If you’re interested in roaming the moors round here like I do, I can recommend The West Yorkshire Moors by Christopher Goddard. A great book packed full of hand-drawn illustrations, great walking routes, and historical, geological, and natural historical facts (although I have spotted one mistake).

If you want to visit the Bridestones, go to Blackshaw Head in West Yorkshire. Drive along the Long Causeway towards Burnley. You’ll ascend a hill above the village, where there is an old radar station. At the top of this hill – Pole Hill – there is a sharp left turn just before the hamlet of Kebcotes. Drive about a quarter of a mile down this to where there is a rough lay-by on the left. On the righthand side of the road is a stile. You can see the beginning of the rocks from there. Follow the path to them.

Happy springtime

Posted: April 10, 2015 in Random wifflings

It’s spring! Blossom on the trees, lambs in the fields, the chatter of birds in the woods and heather, the sun showing his happy smiley face. Predictably, I’ve been miserable. My misery won’t last long, indeed it passes already. Tis only a black cloud that momentarily obscures the shining brilliance of my cheerful personality (note: this is irony). The end of winter always kills me. I love the cold weather, but four months of DARK gets too much, and by the end I am an embittered, scowly-faced hobgoblin that wants to stay in its hole, nurse its beer and spit curses at the world. Some people who know me well might say that’s me anyway. True, but only half the time. Generally, I’m that most peculiar of creatures, a misanthropic extrovert. It’s like being a bloody werewolf, honestly. This time of the year I am the goblin most of the time. So I’ve been sulkily away from the internets, plotting the downfall of the surface folk from the cold comforts of my damp, earthern cave. I don’t think my work patterns help much, all that sitting alone. And it may be that after producing fourteen novels worth of material in five years I have burned myself out a bit. But in truth, this post-winter misery used to be lots worse back in my genuine crazy-ass days (I’ll get round to writing about that). Still, as the sun burns off my entirely self-indulgent woe, I return to you now. And I bring you this by Chuck Wendig, about why so many writers’ blogs are bobbins, including, I fear, this one. I should follow his advice. I intermittently do, when I can’t be bothered. Today is not one of those days.

IMG_1616I painted this chap before Christmas. I didn’t put an image of him up then, but as pictures of toy soldiers seem to be popular, I thought I would share. He’s the warlord for my Anglo-Danish Saga warband. I’ve also painted a Viking leader. Both are on 50mm bases with a couple of attendants. This makes them stand out on the tabletop and justifies, in my mind at least, the huge number of attack dice they get.


Cooking, USA

Posted: March 20, 2015 in Notes from Hebden Bridge

I’ve had two pumpkins in the fridge for months. They were taking up too much space, so I made them into a pie yesterday. An American dish I’ve not attempted to make before, it is very tasty.



Eclipse! Used by Tintin to such good effect to escape the Incas. Eclipse! Terrifying my six-year-old who misunderstood warnings against looking at the sun during the event, and believed today our star would take on evil sight-destroying properties if so much as glimpsed.

This was the third I’ve seen. I missed one earlier in my life because I was at the cinema. But two others I saw, one from my parent’s garden in the 80s, the other a three-quarters solar disappearing act witnessed in the scruffy yard of my final year university digs. 10th May 1994, that must have been. Wikipedia’s a marvellous thing.

The thick cloud that makes Yorkshire grey, cold and wet 200 days of the year, proved a bonus today. Combining cloud with a pair of sunglasses you could quite comfortably observe the phenomenon. As my mate Chris Hoyle said on Facebook:

Look at that! What could better illustrate the majestic clockwork of our solar system and our intimate grasp of its mechanism? The elegance and precision with which we can predict these events is as spectacular as their beauty. Keep watching the skies, my friends!

I couldn’t say it better myself, so I won’t try.

I watched most of it upon the hill overlooking Mytholmroyd from the west. There were people stationed at three hundred yard intervals across the countryside, like something from a sinister Nigel Kneale TV drama, an effect heightened by the “eclipse wind” being especially pronounced here.

Here’s my inevitable picture, similar no doubt to many thousands more. I took lots. This one shot in my garden towards the end of the phenomenon, when the moon was moving away, is the best.