Saturday, November 23, 2019

Jubilee Park

It took me a while to get around to this one for various illness and laziness related reasons but finally I managed to get along to the next station on what is, for the moment, Sydney's only light rail line.  The trip from Rozelle Bay takes us past what used to be parks but now seem to be construction sites for various road works.  Bare earth with clumps of trees tied up in orange tape (to prevent them straying at night) predominates on the harbour side until we roll over a brick viaduct to reach Jubilee Park.  The viaduct itself is apparently of great heritage significance and the subject of much adulation among people who admire such things.  I'm not sure why, humans have been putting one brick on top of another since before Roman times although admittedly the Romans didn't run a railway along the top.

Jubilee Park is at the back end of Glebe and provides a handy border between the houses and apartment blocks of Glebe and the Parramatta River.  Hint, if your feet are getting wet you've strayed too far.  The park provides a pleasant expanse where people can drag their children when they're too young to have iPhones and set up stalls to sell things to each other.  There's also a cricket pitch right next to the station so you can watch all of the "action" without leaving the platform.  A match was in progress when I arrived and I spent a few enjoyable minutes watching the game but I couldn't help thinking there was something missing.  After some reflection I realised that I normally watch cricket on television.  For me I'm afraid the game isn't the same without a pair of overpaid halfwits spouting banalities for my amusement.

Since Jubilee Park was there and so was I walking through it was, if not a good idea, at least the one that required the least mental effort.  Leaving the commentary free cricket behind I ploughed ahead eschewing organised sport for disorganised sport as various people kicked a ball roughly in each other's direction.  Further ahead there was simple disorganisation as groups of people were setting up stalls, presumably to sell things to each other.  I didn't stop to find out but turned my back on the green of the park and headed inland towards the asphalt and concrete of the city.

I headed inland for about fifty metres until I found a street that would take me back to the light rail station.  I was struggling to think of something to do, when I remembered a conversation held some weeks back with a work colleague who had pointed out that the Tramsheds were in that general area.  The Tramsheds were, well, tramsheds.  Or at least they had been tramsheds back in the days when Sydney had had trams.  Sydney doesn't have trams now it has light rail instead.  Eleven whole kilometres of it stretching from Central to Dulwich Hill.  Some three billion dollars later and its second light rail line is apparently almost ready to go.  What this means is that the tramsheds were redundant.  For years they sat derelict until five years ago they were redeveloped although first the redevelopers had to chase out a bunch of trams that had been left inside and forgotten.

Once the mechanical vermin had been disposed of and the more offensive of the graffiti cleaned up the place was subjected to an "adaptive reuse" which is a flatulent way of saying "renovation".  The place was adaptively reused in a sympathetic and harmonious way whatever that means.  I think it means the place still looks largely like a tramshed.  In case you had any doubt it has the word "Tramsheds" in big letters at the entrance.

So what was this decaying piece of Sydney's transport heritage adaptively reused as?  Basically its a food court and shopping mall.  Here you can dine at very expensive versions of the sort of places you grab your lunch from if (like me) you work in the city and do food shopping for up market equivalents of stuff you can get from your local supermarket.  It was the "wild caught, sustainably sourced" fish that got me.  How do you sustainably source a fish?  Only kill it a bit?  The chunks of fish I saw were definitely not going to be frolicking in the oceans again any time soon.  Possibly because I had eaten before setting out on my journey I saw no reason to avail myself of the only service the Tramsheds seems to offer so I left and caught the light rail into the city on a futile birthday present search.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Silly After Action Report - Getting Bogged Down

Bogging!  That's what could possibly go wrong.

With their immediate opponents swept away Mike attempted to move his armoured cars to find new victims.  Rather foolishly he tried to drive his centre car over the wall.  It bogged.  His other armoured car was in bypass and could only exit into a wire hex.  It did so and it promptly bogged as well.  That wasn't really bad luck.  The bad luck came next turn when he tried to free them and promptly immobilised both vehicles.

Things had reached a bit of an impasse in the north.  Mike had broken into the northern victory building but I had kept a toehold by the simple expedient of refusing to fight him.  Instead I skulked, slunk and generally did everything I could except fight to keep a presence in the building.  Mike's trouble was he had committed hard on the left and didn't have the necessary troop numbers to force me to stand and fight.  At the end of the game I still had a single squad there that I don't believe fired a shot the entire game having spent most of its time in smoke or under concealment counters.


 It was down in the southern victory building (which I had foolishly thought secure) that the game would be decided.  The left building was Mikes, the surviving (broken) squad had surrendered and Mike, rather cruelly, wiped out the 9-1 in CC although this hero did take a Japanese half squad with him.  To do so however Mike had moved a squad which until that time had a LOS down the road which allowed me to pull some troops back into that southern building.  Not a moment too soon.

Mike was desperate to take out my 75mm guns so he could roll his tankettes around to assist.  He did manage to break the crew of the gun on the right but its crew heroically self rallied and resumed their position.  His own gun was still banging away with cheerful impotence but at least its crew could tell their kids they contributed.

The south is crumbling

Artillery failing to do the job on my left hand gun he brought up his surviving squad from the south to winkle them out with the bayonet while he brought his forces from the left hand building to challenge for the southern location as well.  Over the next couple of turns he tiptoed these troops forward with little loss and then with only a hex or so to move launched them in banzai charges at my defenders at a range which would ensure that his troops wouldn't die of heart attacks before they succeeded.  At the same time he managed to break the left hand guncrew with infantry fire and my defenses were almost bare. 

I had had two squads and an 8-1 leader in the victory building.  After the close combats from the banzai charges were resolved I had one squad.  Unlike the other building Mike had the forces to make hiding not particularly viable.  I had a squad capable of reinforcing, an elite squad that had been trying (and obviously failing) to hold off his southern troops.  Unfortunately it would have to cross a road now covered by the tankettes that Mike had brought around but I had no choice.  They dashed across the road giving Mike's lead tank a 1-2 shot.  I boxcarred the subsequent morale check thus transforming my elite squad into a broken, first line half squad.  Mike then fired on it again and a snakes on the morale check resulted in a elite, unbroken half squad.  More importantly though it was still in the road rather than pushing into the building.  The only other reinforcement I could add was broken immediately after it arrived.  It self rallied and was promptly broken again.  One squad was all I was going to be permitted to have.

There is one Italian squad in the southern building, its a little difficult to see because its holding a Japanese lmg.
With time running low and the left hand gun out of the way Mike decided to bite the bullet and bring up his tankettes.  His fear of my gun proved unjustified as it bounced 75mm shells off the lead tankettes armour but he had left it just too late. The tankettes couldn't get into position in time but honestly it didn't seem like they'd be needed.  He had a pair of squads and a 9-1 leader in the southern building against a single squad of mine.  Surely if firepower failed close combat would see him through.  He didn't even need to kill them, a casualty reduction would put me below the two squad minimum I had to maintain.  Up in the northern building my surviving unbroken squad fled along the first floor pursued by vengeful Japanese who couldn't quite catch them.

The final turn rolled around and Mike tried his last.  He managed to send a reinforcing squad towards the south but my sole piece of defensive fire pinned them.  With me clinging onto one corner of the victory building by my eyelids Mike couldn't quite get his entire force into CC.  He managed to send in one squad which I killed and in doing so won the game by the slimmest of margins.  I can't express how important those elite Italian squads are.  Elite Italians are the only ones who aren't lax and against second line Japanese troops they have a firepower advantage as well.  It isn't often the Italians actually have the edge in close combat (or anywhere else).  This was a tough game with high casualties on both sides and for about five of its six turns I was sure I had lost it.  Thanks very much to Mike for the game.  The next time he plays Japanese troops I'm sure he'll want proper first line boys.

The end and a thoroughly implausible victory
Capitano Carburetta looked around at the building, still improbably Italian.  The windows were shattered, spent cartridges littered the floors, part of the ceiling had collapsed and the walls were pockmarked with bullets and splattered with blood.  Upstairs the defeated Japanese were avenging their loss by hacking up the fixtures with their bayonets.

"I don't know if we won," said Carburetta to the soldier hiding under the couch next to him, "but I'm pretty sure we're not getting our security deposit back."

Silly After Action Report - Italian Concession Edition

Capitano Falti Carburetta stretched lazily and wandered out on to the balcony.  It was another beautiful day in Tianjin, the loveliness of the weather only slightly marred by a large number of flabby, middle aged men in Japanese army uniforms who were asthmatically surrounding the Italian concession.  As Carburetta watched a group of Italian marines dragged an anti aircraft gun into the middle of the road and piled a few rocks around it.  Satisfied with their "defences" the marines manned the gun and pretended to be invisible

A soldier dashed up to him clutching a piece of paper.

"Good news sir, the war's over.  We've surrendered."

"Turn the paper over," suggested Carburetta.  The man did so and his face fell.

"And we've declared war on Germany?  Oh dear god!  Hey, what are all those Japanese doing?"

"What do you think?"

"Are we really going to fight them?" asked the soldier his face going paler than the sheet of paper in his hand.

"Not really, this is largely a hypothetical scenario," replied Carburetta checking to make sure that his pistol and emergency white flag were in place.

"Does that mean we can only be hypothetically killed?"

"If only it were that simple."

So finally here it is; Scenario LFT245 - Ciao Cina.  A riveting tale of combat, heroism and sacrifice that didn't really happen in two action packed installments.

If you've ever wondered why the Italian armed forces performed so poorly in World War II the answer would appear to be because their finest troops were deployed to garrison a minor economic concession in Tianjin, China.  Not only does this mix of first line and elite troops have a plethora of automatic weapons including a heavy machine gun and three mediums but they also have a pair of 75mm anti aircraft guns.  As if that wasn't enough they have armour support, admittedly in the form of a pair of the decrepit armoured cars that have been serving me with varying degrees of inadequacy in my last couple of Italian scenarios.  These mighty machines of death and a surprisingly motivated Italian garrison are mine to command.

Opposite them Mike Sexton commands what can most kindly be described as "not the Emperor's finest".  A second line formation, flabby from occupation duty, replete with overage reservists and reluctant Korean conscripts.  Nevertheless today is their opportunity to cover themselves with glory.  In addition to a pair of medium machine guns and a trio of 50mm mortars these Bento Box Banzai Boys have a couple of artillery pieces to shoot themselves forward, a pair of armoured cars even larger and clunkier than mine and three tiny tankettes thus giving them armoured superiority for a generous definition of both those words.  Furthermore they have what at first sight appears to be an oversized shoebox but on closer inspection turns out to be a Daihatsu landing craft capable of depositing the, no doubt, blood crazed soldiers of the emperor in my rear via the river.

I have fourteen squads (nine elite and five first line) with which to defend the only three buildings in China that the Italians apparently care about.  Mike's seventeen second line squads have to push them out.  The Italians win by keeping two unbroken (non conscript) squads in the buildings as long as the Japanese haven't captured more than one of them.  By extrapolation that means that capturing two is a Japanese win.

I'm not sure I should bother mentioning my plan as it fell to pieces pretty much on turn one.  I stacked the victory building on the left with significant firepower including the hmg and an mmg manned by elite squads.  The forward building on the right was deemed expendable (after a long and ferocious defence of course) while the survivors would conduct a skillful retreat to the rear victory building for a desperate last stand.  In my rear a few squads stood guard to protect against any troops who might land from the river and the AA guns set up on the road where they could prevent his armour circling around behind.  My own armoured cars I split up to assist in the defence.

At set up, Mike's tankettes are preparing to enter on the left
Things didn't start well for the Italians.  In fact "not well" would be a much better description of how things started for the Italians.  Sneering at my firepower the doughty (or should that be doughy) soldiers of the emperor pushed through the forest on the left and plunged into the leftmost victory building.  Over the course of the next couple of turns they would butcher and bayonet their way through my defenders without my being able to do much about it.  His tankettes rolled up to help positioning themselves behind a convenient wall and starting the most pathetic gun duel in history with my defending armoured car.  We proved virtually incapable of hitting each other and when we did hit we achieved nothing still it kept them busy and provided employment for the munitions workers back home and that's the important thing.  More significantly a couple of squads drove out an outlying defender on the left and chased him all the way back to the victory building.

In the centre his 70mm artillery piece dropped a smoke round on my rear defences while his troops sidled crabwise across my front looking for a way forward.  The reason for this less than enthusiastic advance was because none of Mike's mortars turned out to possess any smoke or WP rounds and the appeal of charging out into flying metal failed to impress itself on his troops.  Besides it didn't really seem that they needed to.  Mike rolled one of his armoured cars forward behind a wall and started another duel with my other armoured car.  In defiance of rational probability this actually had a result when he shot my antique vehicle to pieces.  His other armoured car came on on the right shepherding forward some flankers who started threatening the forward building on the right.  Finally, despite the presence of battlecrazed defenders his landing craft managed to unload a pair of squads in my rear which would keep them occupied for several turns.

Things have only just started and they're not looking great
Things proceeded to get worse with great alacrity.  On the left Mike continued his sweep through the victory building.  Things weren't helped when my armoured car broke its MA.  Not that it was achieving anything but its threat level was significantly reduced.  In the centre another smoke round choked the defenders in the forward victory building while those of my forward defenders who hadn't already surrendered fled for its rather dubious security.  With the left building (and an hmg and mmg) definitely gone suddenly holding this unloveable structure became terribly important.  But holding it seemed problematic when Mike poured in troops, including both his mmg crews and a 9-1 leader with little in the way of defence from my choking and out of position troops.  To make matters worse he rolled his other armoured car forward to sleaze some of the building defenders.  This decision would come back to bite him later.

Definitely doomed

  Meanwhile over on the left the mopping up of the last remnants of my force in the victory building there proceeded apace.  Along the way Mike collected enough Italian support weapons to open a shop.  To provide some totally unneeded assistance he had brought in a pair of squads with an lmg on the left who sneaked behind my armoured car and blew it apart at point blank range.  My armour was gone.

The only ray of light was in the south where his troops who had landed from the river were being ably held up by my defenders down there (I even killed a squad in CC) until Mike realised he could just go around them.  Mike wanted to roll his tankettes around to the south but feared to do so while my 75mm guns ruled the street.  He had pushed one of his own guns along the road and this was engaged in a duel with one of mine where Japanese and Italian gunners competed to see who could miss the other the most.

Things looked bad for me.  On the left the victory building was "garrisoned" by a broken squad and a 9-1 officer while Japanese soldiers relentlessly hunted them down.  His capture of the support weapons in that building had enabled him to set up fire positions down the streets I would need to cross if I wanted to reinforce or evactuate the other two victory buildings and he now had a total of five AFVs unchallenged by any remaining Italian armour.  Mike seemed to have this in the bag, what could possibly go wrong?

Tune in next time to find out what could possibly go wrong. 

Travelling Hopefully - Bookshop Edition

There was a Jamaican festival on the next day which featured various Jamaican themed stuff.  At least I presume it did what with it being a Jamaican festival and all.  It would seem a little silly for it to feature Croatian themed stuff, although it would have the advantage of surprise.  I mention the above because there was a vague inclination on our part to attend said festival.  The day, however, was just as damp, cold and rainy as its predecessor and we decided a Jamaican festival would not perhaps be at its best in such conditions (although a Croatian festival would probably fit right in).  So we went to Carlton instead.

The original intention behind going to Carlton was to see a movie but the movie we wanted to see wasn't showing and as we attempted to coordinate another movie between the three of us it slowly became apparent that none of us actually wanted to go to the movies.  With movies and rarely to be experienced cultural insights crossed off the list of things we might want to do today I suggested we just go to cafes and bookshops.  It is an indication of the dearth of options that this suggestion was actually taken up.

Fortunately Carlton has cafes and a bookshop.  Indeed Lygon Street seems to be an endless stretch of cafes spilling out onto the streets and greatly inconveniencing both pedestrians and the local homeless who have few places left to set up shop.  We wandered past multiple cafes occupied by the sort of people who looked as though they would be enjoying their café experience more if the weather was better and plunged into the nearest bookshop where I bought half of it.  I even bought a book for my friend despite the fact that I lent him a book ten years ago and not only has he not returned it he hasn't even read it.

After book shopping we invoked the café clause of the "café and bookshop" agreement for a bite to eat.  The very attractive waitress turned up her nose at the books I had bought and focused her attention on my two companions.  Honestly I needn't have come to Melbourne at all.  Suiting actions to thoughts I imposed, once again, on my host for a lift to the airport.  In contrast to Sydney Melbourne airport managed to get me out of their city with smooth efficiency.  So much efficiency in fact that you might suspect they wanted me to leave. Much thanks to Morgan for letting me stay and to Rafferty for cooking a delicious breakfast.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Travelling Hopefully - Rain and Mist (aka Melbourne) Edition

So I did eventually get to Melbourne.  I flew for an hour and a half to encounter a 25 degree temperature difference.  I huddled and shivered my way over to the waiting car, apologised profusely and then huddled and shivered my way to an identical car which had the advantage of being driven by a friend of mine.

With him at the wheel I had an opportunity to see what the northern suburbs of Melbourne look like at night.  Dark!  That’s what they’ve like at night.  Well except for the street lights, the traffic lights, the headlights and the cheery glow emanating from the rude huts of the local peasantry.  OK it was pretty bright really but it would have been dark if all the lights had been turned off.  As we approached the house I was greeted by a cacophony of howls, barks and scrabbling.

“Dogs,” explained my friend.  I hadn’t actually thought it was his housemate but I suppose it was good to clear the air from the start.

Once inside with unpacking completed and the dogs reduced to only mild levels of hysteria we made our plans for the evening.  Cinnamon whisky was the first decision, bed was the second.  The next day Melbourne could reveal itself in all its glory.

The next day Melbourne revealed itself in all its glory which is to say it was cold, damp and overcast.  That changed later in the day, it started to rain as well.  I went back to bed.  When I arose later that day I had to accept that Melbourne had made its decision and I would just have to live with it.

Melbourne has (according to Melbourne) a vibrant cafe culture so we wandered along to Fitzroy where we could have breakfast and indulge in a little people watching.  Predominately we watched small numbers of people hastily scurrying about whatever tasks had driven them out of bed.  Once in the cafe I watched a waitress and a waiter flirt with my friend while they forgot my drinks order.  So far Melbourne seems a lot like Sydney.

In the afternoon I had been promised a treat.  My two hosts drove me out to the Dandenong Ranges for sightseeing and scones with jam and cream.  The Dandenongs are north of Melbourne and are small mountains or possibly vigorous hills.  They're wooded, lushly green and overall a visually appealing place to spend the afternoon.  We drove to a lookout where we gazed down on to occasional patches of Melbourne and large expanses of mist.  For this we paid seven dollars which was a high price to pay for mist but, we all agreed, perfectly acceptable since it permitted us to use their toilets.  After enjoying the view and the facilities we stopped off at a beautiful, unspoiled tourist trap and enjoyed the promised scones with jam and cream.  Once back at the house we decided that 10.30 was quite late enough to go to bed on a Saturday night.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Hopefully Travelling

I planned to drop into Melbourne to visit a friend.  A rather modest and unassuming ambition l think you’ll agree.  As soon as I made the arrangements I discovered that this harmless little jaunt had angered some malign god.  I don’t know which one, most of the gods I know are as choice a collection of petty minded psychopaths as you’re ever likely to meet outside a children’s birthday party.  First I was visited with a plague of kidney stones (believe me two counts as a plague).  When I insisted on hobbling towards the airport clutching painkillers and whimpering to myself my airline of choice suddenly discovered its aircraft had more cracks than crazy paving.  When I turned up at the airport waving an industrial sized roll of duct tape the increasingly frustrated deity played its final card; industrial action among the aircraft wranglers.  The flight schedule was in chaos as aircraft romped unattended in the fields.

I, however, am undaunted; so far my flight has been cancelled, rescheduled and then delayed but with any luck I should make it to Melbourne before I’m due back at work on Monday.  Pretty much the only thing that can still go wrong is if a meteorite hits the airport so I’m cautiously optimistic although I am keeping one eye on the sky.

In the meantime I’m taking advantage of the time I’m spending in this low rent Limbo by amusing myself with toilet advertisements.  As I rinsed my hands a display informed me of the importance of prostate cancer testing kits.  I almost expected to see a dispenser.  Just the thing to while away those tedious ours while they get a noose around your aircraft’s nose and lead it to the departure gate.  I do all my important medical testing at the airport, you’re probably the same.

Once the advertising was sure I had sorted out my prostate cancer it changed to a more hopeful message informing me I could marry who and when I wanted.  Unfortunately it also said forced marriage was illegal.  One of those two statements must be inaccurate.  I put my upcoming nuptials on hold and decided to eat chocolate instead.  I can actually see the advertising looking through its records for a promotion for a type 2 diabetes testing kit.