Old Soldiers

I had a bit of a rude awakening today, when I came across an article on the Guardian news blog about the Warhammer battle game.

This was a game that I used to rather enjoy playing in my youth and it was a bit of a shock when the article pointed out that the game is now 32 years old.  Admittedly it shouldn’t have been too much a shock since I’m well aware that I’m several years older than that and I am mathematically literate.  Somehow, though, the realisation of how long it is since Warhammer came out made me feel somewhat older than reminiscing to the (younger) friends with whom I was watchingsome of the Star Wars movies last weekend about how I saw The Empire Strikes Back when it was first out in the cinema, even though that was several years earlier.

As I recall, my brother got a copy of the first edition Warhammer rules fairly shortly after they first came out (and when, of course, they were not “first edition” but just “Warhammer”) and it wasn’t too long before we had our first battles.  We later got a copy of the 2nd edition, as well as Warhammer 40,000 (the futuristic, sci-fi version, which was my fairly firm favourite), and played these from time to time over the next decade or so.

In fact, we were generally more into roleplaying games (including the Warhammer spin-off, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which was our main RPG for a while before being supplanted in our affections by Shadowrun and various other games) but it was always nice to be able to have a bit of a tabletop battle for a change, even if we were limited to fairly small armies.  That limitation, incidentally, was more due to our available playing space (growing up in a fairly small terraced house) than the size of our miniature figure collection, which was fairly extensive (and provided an early boost to my interest in painting – though in later years I’ve tended to paint pictures, when I get round to painting at all, rather than figures).

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve played Warhammer, or indeed any other tabletop battle game (I did have a few games of a Napoleonic battle game called Shako with a friend about 10 years ago, and I’ve a vague feeling we may have played a little bit of Warhammer then too) and I don’t particularly have any great desire to go back to it.  I’d be much more interested in getting back into playing real RPGs – I still play occasional CRPGs (i.e. Computer RolePlaying Games) but it’s really not the same.

Nevertheless, Warhammer and other wargames did definitely have an important if not particularly large role in my early life and are a part of that rich tapestry of experiences that make me who I am.

And I’m probably not the only one to ever consider how the real world might be a much nicer place if, when opposing groups had a territorial dispute or some other such cause for conflict, they got together round a large table with a bunch of miniature figures, a bag of dice and a tape measure and settled their differences that way without having to tear up the lives of thousands or millions of real people.

Two Horses

As cars go, the Citroën 2CV is one that is quite close to my heart.

In general I’m not that interested in cars but I’ve always quite liked the 2CV mainly, I think, for reasons of nostalgia since one of these (in a lovely pea green colour) was our family car throughout the early years of my life.   I think my parents got it fairly shortly before I was born and we had it until I was about 6 or 7, as I recall.

Apart from the colour of our 2CV, things I remember with particular fondness include the canvas top that could be rolled back in fine weather, the hand-crank that could be used to start it as an alternative to the ignition key (which, as I recall, we never actually needed to use though I did enjoy the rare occasions when my dad would demonstrate this capability) and the fake-leather seat upholstery that got painfully hot (especially if you were wearing shorts) when the sun shone.  OK, so fondness is probably not the appropriate word for that last recollection but it certainly burned itself well into my mind, not to mention my legs.

As far as I’m aware, the name 2CV came from the French phrase deux chevaux, meaning two horses or, in this context, two horsepower – a description of the power of the car’s engine.  I’m fairly sure that deux chevaux was the first phrase of French I ever learned, although it would probably be exaggerating to say that this did very much to fuel my lifelong interest in languages.  (Speaking of fuel, I seem to recall that our Citroën used 3-star petrol, which I haven’t seen on sale for several decades now.)

I had a friend at university 12 or so years ago who used to drive a 2CV.  While helping him to bump start it one time, I discovered that the car’s body is made from incredibly soft metal that would visibly distort when you pushed against it.  I suspect it probably wouldn’t offer too much protection in the event of a crash, but I tried not to think too much about that while my friend was subsequently giving me a lift down the A55.

The reason I mention all this, or rather the reason I’ve been thinking about the 2CV today is that, after not having seen one for quite some time (several years, at least, I think) I saw two yesterday.  Both were the same colour (off-white / cream) but I’m fairly sure they were different vehicles as one was definitely a left-hand drive vehicle with French plates, being driven by a young-looking (and also rather nice looking, I might add) woman while the other was, I’m fairly sure right-hand drive and being driven by a bloke with a fairly impressive beard, who appeared to be enjoying the afternoon sunshine with the top of the car rolled down and a big smile on his face. I say that I’m fairly sure because I saw this one first (by several hours) and didn’t take particular note of what side the steering wheel was on; I would think that the very fact I didn’t notice it suggests that it was probably on the usual side for cars on British roads.