Sunday, 19 April 2009

Going places … and coming back!

I have just returned from two ‘back-to-back’ cruises on P&O’s Oriana. The first cruise lasted thee days and visited Zeebrugge and Cherbourg (it was supposed to go to Le Havre, but the French dock workers were on strike and we were diverted to an alternate port).

We have visited Zeebrugge many times, but on this occasion the weather was not to good when we disembarked so all my wife and I did was travel into Blankenberge on the shuttle bus. We had a very pleasant walk along the seafront, bought some Belgian chocolate, and one or two other things (including some very nice 1:100th scale model tanks made by SIKU).

Luckily for us the diversion to Cherbourg did not stop my wife and I from joining an excursion to the British landing beaches in Normandy. It started with a visit to the Pegasus Bridge Museum, where I took loads of pictures and bought quite a few bits and pieces. These included a 6th Airborne Division baseball cap for my father (who served with 53rd [Worcester Yeomanry] Air-landing Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, the division’s artillery regiment) and a couple of pre-painted model aircraft (a 1:150th scale Messerschmitt Bf109 E3 painted in Rumanian colours and a 1:140th scale MiG-3 in all-white camouflage, both made by SKY PILOT) for myself.

The second cruise went to Madeira, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, and Vigo. The weather was not too bad considering the time of year, and the ‘sea days’ between Southampton and Madeira on the way out and Lanzarote (via Vigo) and Southampton on the way back gave me time to do some reading. The latter included:
  • AFTER STALINGRAD – THE RED ARMY’S WINTER OFFENSIVE 1942 – 1943 by David Glanz
  • CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith
As one would expect, the former is a very detailed, scholarly work that draws heavily upon the Russian military archives that are slowly being made accessible to historians. The latter is a murder story set at the end of the Stalinist era, and captures the feeling of a time when the slightest suspicion of disloyalty could condemn individuals and their families to imprisonment or execution.

The ‘sea days’ also gave me time to think about my next wargaming projects and to begin work on a set of operational-level World War II wargames rules that draw heavily upon the MEGABLITZ rules written by Tim Gow, the various rules created by Richard Brooks and Ian Drury that are collectively known as the RED SQUARE rules, and TABLE TOP BATTLES by Mike and Joyce Smith.

But more of that later …

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