nice one centurion, like it, like it

roman soldier (playmobil)
And so, a couple more Rome posts before moving on to Venice. There is an endless supply of Rome puns and Life of Brian references to draw from yet. Above is a little Playmobil Roman soldier I picked up near the Forum, goes nicely with all our Playmobil knights and pirates. So one of the things we did in Rome was the Gladiator School, which as I’ve mentioned before, was not worth it. It’s listed inĀ  lot of magazines and guides and tourist videos about Rome as a fun activity with the family, but I must say I wasn’t impressed. It’s quite expensive to take part, and I took part with my son so it was twice the cost. On top of that, it’s outside the center of Rome so you have to take a taxi there. Our taxi driver from the Forum fleeced us with a 30 Euro ride (his meter was not running, tellingly). The taxi back on the other hand was 17 Euro, but we had to wait 45 minutes for it to arrive. Now when we got there the place is pretty small, it’s a space for a group that does Roman re-enactments, and they go full on with the costumes and put on shows and things I guess. There were lots of photos of the Roman guy who runs it with various celebrities who had gone there in the past, Arnold Schwarzenegger and so on. The Gladiator School is for kids really but it was like, well it must be good, famous people come here. I was wearing my Sampdoria shirt and the same guy spoke to me, saying that Sampdoria are just a bunch of drug users and miming someone taking an injection. Hmm, okay, I said. We ended up being in a fairly large group of around twenty or so adults and children, and then we were given a history lesson with a whole bunch of Roman helmets and weaponry, which was interesting enough, except it was in a very hot room on a very hot day and went on for an hour. The guy taught us a lot of history, and some got to wear very heavy helmets, but all of the kids were getting quite anxious to get out and learn swordplay. When we finally did get to move into the practical space, the instructor gave us costumes – red tunics for the adults and white robes for the kids. Massive white robes that didn’t fit kids at all, and tiny red tunics that we adults all barely squeezed into. Hmmm. Some of us laughed about it, but at this stage one family had had enough, I’m not sure exactly why but I heard that the instructor had made some comment to their son, a tall lad, which had upset him, so the instructor spent the next 10-15 minutes off talking to the secretary while we waited around wondering what to do next. Finally the instructor reappeared and introduced a small obstacle course which we had to run around five times, while he went off again, distracted. Then he showed us a wooden structure which gladiators had to learn how to put together quickly which was supposedly used in battle, and so everyone took turns, while everyone else watched, because there is only one. We spent a lot of time watching. In the meantime the instructor would wander off, or just chat to the mothers seated on the benches (“Americans and British today,” he said to one, “No Australians thankfully, the Australian women are very rowdy because they are all descended from violent criminals.” He actually said that. Hmmm. When finally we got to learn swordplay, which was with the wooden practice swords, we all lined up and he told us to copy certain moves, then he would go around to each of us and maybe show us how to do that one move, or in the case of my son, just say one dismissive sentence and move on without showing him anything (his only words were, “Too much Jackie Chan,” whatever that is supposed to mean). It seemed like there were far too many in the group for anything more, though he didn’t seem particularly bothered. The sword practice was about ten minutes at most, and then we got to sit and watch while two kids or two parents at a time were able to fight each other. Kids couldn’t fight parents however, which disappointed my son who wanted to battle me. It was only simple gentle battling, and again the instructor barely took any notice, preferring to go and chat to other people instead, or ask that the mothers get up and fight because he “wanted to see two women fight”. And that was it. He gave us all certificates, and then thanked us as a group for funding their Roman re-enactment society, and then he went into a tirade that they get no funding from the Roman city government, who prefer to fund things “for gay people and foreign migrants”, mincing about as he did so. Eh? Stunned confusion from everyone. “Hi, can we have our money back?” I said, knowing that was not a battle worth our time fighting. As we waited for our cab home, a 45 minute wait, I peeked in to see the group after us, which was smaller, and who had a different, more enthusiastic instructor. They seemed to be having a great time. We and the rest of our group however all felt a bit underwhelmed. However. We got back and had a gelato, and still loved Rome, and in the end, you get to see this picture of me squeezed into a very, very tight tunic, fighting a duel. I guess it was worth it for that…

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sabre rattling

star wars galactic heroes
star wars galactic heroes

Well what an election night that was! I actually bowed out and didn’t watch it seat-by-seat this time, because frankly I wanted to watch Wonder Woman instead (it was pretty good). I got home just in time for them to announce the Hung Parliament, so, more fun then. Sure there’ll be another one around the corner soon. Anyway…I’m still catching up with month-old sketches, and here are a few of the old Star Wars Galactic Heroes figures I’ve had for years, the ones with the odd bow-legged stance, as if they are on the Galactic Loo. The bottom ones were drawn on Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, (for my friends in the UK, that’s on the Fifth of April). They do look like they’ve lost their seats, a whole bunch of lost seats. Nick Clegg’s, for example. I wish I had more, like the Boba Fett one, but you can’t get them any more, except on Ebay or Amazon for a lot of money. I love that Vader one on the bottom row, pointing his sabre like Errol Flynn. These were a lot of fun to draw.

blastin’ through the galaxy

guardians of the galaxy blaster toy
Are you excited for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? I know I am. I loved the first one. This thing is one of Star-Lord’s blasters from the movie, but a ‘Nerf’ version. I’m not a big fan of those Nerf things (they get on my…) but my friend Roshan got me and my son a couple of these a while ago, and we started having blast-offs around the house with them recently, so I decided to draw one of them in my son’s “book of his things”, which by the way is nearly full now. Yeah, we can’t wait for Guardians II. I can’t wait for the soundtrack! Pew pew pew!

Ferrari tales

Lego F1 Ferrari
Two of my favourite things rolled into one: Lego and Formula 1. This is the Ferrari SF-16H (new Lego toy but last season’s car, which wasn’t as fast as this year’s but didn’t have that big shark’s fin). I was so excited for this F1 season to begin, and now it has I’m even more excited. I can see it being a properly epic season, hopefully with battles between teams rather than the old 1-2 finishes from the fastest team’s drivers. Hamilton vs Vettel! Verstappen! Ricciardo! Watching the podium after the Chinese Grand Prix, they just all looked so happy. Much better than the tantrums and hat-throwing. I don’t know, I just want to see great competition, and watch the cars and hear the roar of the engines. I have a few other F1 Lego cars, and I might even draw them too. GO GO GO!

scout walker

Lego AT-ST
More Star Wars Lego (and this ain’t the last of it). This is the AT-ST, otherwise known as the Scout Walker. Not Scott Walker as my autocorrect would say. “the Twin Suns Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More”. This is the one from Rogue One, seen briefly unless you were looking at your popcorn or literally blinking. It’s the same as the ones seen in Return of the Jedi, the ones famously useless at dealing with rolling logs. This vehicle will always remind me of getting run over at age 7 by a van outside my house.

I was playing with my friends Natasha and Simon in our narrow street, my Star Wars figures all over the doorstep. We crossed over the street to see if our friends Robert and Victoria wanted to come out and play. They couldn’t; they had family visiting. Ok we said and turned to dash back over to our side of the street. My street was narrow, but cars parked on one side meant it was hard to see oncoming traffic. I was first, so I stepped into the street and woke up on the couch, covered in blood with crying and panic all around. I vaguely remember the impact knocking me out, seeing a big white blur. I think the van was white. It was probably going too fast, but it hit me head first so I have no idea. I was lucky. I spent the night in hospital, and all I had was a big beaten-up face and a black eye. But I got a new Star Wars toy as a present, which was the old Kenner AT-ST Scout Walker – Return of the Jedi had come out a few months before and was pretty much my favourite thing in the world. I remember my older sister playing with it with me, creating a terrain on the carpet by putting a blanket over several other items to create hills. There was a button on the back to make it walk. I did have an Ewok with a little glider that dropped boulders on it, as well as the Biker Scout on the Speeder Bike (which would ‘explode’ by pressing a little button on the back). My tortoises had a little brick ‘hut’ in the back garden I would pretend was the Imperial Bunker (the tortoises didn’t mind at all, I think they enjoyed being part of the story). All of this, I think of when I see the AT-ST! Hardly a trauma. I remember people asking for a couple of months afterwards, “who hit you?” It was a van, don’t worry about it. My school photos from 1983 showed a lot of scabbing and a redness in my eye. I did miss a couple of days of school. Ironically, one of my best friends in class, Wayne, also got run over on the exact same day in a separate incident. (Conspiracy theorists of 1983, get on that!). I think he was hit by a taxi. He was out of school for longer than me though, because he had broken his leg. I remember Wayne, we used to play chess and talk about animals and politics; he loved running and was good at football, he supported Everton, we both liked Sampdoria. His family were Jamaican and when he went over to Jamaica when we were 9 or 10 he brought me back this thing called a ‘Jamaican Yo-Yo’ and incredibly I STILL have it. I should find it and sketch it sometime.

This was a fun set to build, and comes with (among others) Baze Malbus, the dude with the massive blaster in Rogue One who is friends with Chirrut Imwe. Those two were cool.

“Jabba, this is your last chance. Free us, or die”

sw-lego-desertskiff-sm

That is my favourite scene from Return of the Jedi, possibly all of Star Wars. Possibly all of everything. I compare everything to that scene. That was a fun conversation, I think whenever I meet someone new. But did R2-D2 throw me a green lightsabre that I start swinging around against a bunch of space pirates that tried to feed me to a giant toothy pit in the desert? No, I didn’t think so. Ok maybe that one time. Yes, more Star Wars Lego sketching, and it’s a great way to pass the time, and keep the old mind off of current affairs, or “raisins liaisons” as I call them. There’s Luke above facing off against Boba Fett on the sand skiff, I remember so clearly watching that aged 7 at the cinema with my big brother and just gasping at the brilliant green of the lightsabre, which I had never seen before (I had no idea they could be green! Big revelation). I had a toy lightsabre, it was a cheap plastic one that glowed white, but I loved it. Prior to that, my big sister used to make me lightsabres out of cardboard, old toilet rolls really, with coloured paper on them. I remember getting in trouble with the security guards at Brent Cross Shopping Centre for duelling with my cousin Daniel with our cardboard sabres, I was only six or seven at the time. I mention that, like as if I wouldn’t do the same now. Anyway that one that lit up, it stopped working after I decided that it needed to be green. I painted the bulb green with poster paint, you know the little coloured tubs you used to get, and that did it in basically, stopped working. I’m still sad about that now. Everyone says how when they were in the playground, they always wanted to be Han Solo, Han was the coolest, he always got the girl. Well I remember being seven and Luke Skywalker was so the coolest, because he had the LIGHTSABRE, and what’s so good about ‘getting the girl’? I was seven, dude. Luke’s always been my favourite. And Vader of course, but one of my other friends liked to be Vader. sw-lego-lukespeeder-sm

More Luke, much earlier Luke. This is his landspeeder from Star Wars (that’s “A New Hope” to you). I guess those stormtroopers bought those droids then. There’s Ben KEnobi, now here’s the thing. I love Ben Kenobi, Obi-Wan is probably my second favourite character after Luke (solo movie PLEASE), but come on. In the scene where he mind-tricks the troopers, he does also ask if they want to buy the droids. Ok, mind-tricks are one thing, but seriously. You get pulled over by a cop, they’re like, this a stolen car bro? Kinda looks like a stolen car bro. And you’re like, nah is cool, had this for three or four seasons, but like, you wanna buy it off me? That is some mind-trick, Ben, because that is some seriously shady dealing. And then later, in the cantina, after chopping a guy’s arm off (fair play, dangerous town), he ‘negotiates’ with Han Solo. He says, “Just myself, the boy, two droids…and no questions asked.” Again, trying not to sound shady. So then Han Solo does just that and asks a question. Does Ben raise his eyebrows and say, “Dude, I just said no questions asked, do you need me to write it down?” No, he answers the question, with an even more shady answer, to which Han increases the price. Ben however has played this weird game of Go For Broke before (remember that board game?) and says, 10k? Nah man, I give you 17k. Remember a couple of decades before when Grievous calls him “The Negotiator”? Yeah that. This is Ben playing with other people’s cash. Good job Luke was able to sell his out-of-demand speeder for that 2k. If he hadn’t, well perhaps they should have gone back to those troopers and tried to sell them C-3PO. Threepio wasn’t carrying any Death Star plans after all, and he doesn’t exactly walk very fast.

sw-lego-falcon-mf-sm

“You’re all clear kid now let’s blow this thing and go home!”

Now I’m not saying Han isn’t cool. He definitely is, because he flies the Millennium Falcon. The one above is of course the micro-fighter version. I do have the bigger one but that takes a longer time to draw. I love the Falcon. What a piece of junk. She may not look like much but she’s got it where it counts kid. Now, I know it’s just a saying, I know it comes at the coolest bit of the movie (Seriously, get a chance to watch Star Wars on the big screen again some day and the moment where the Falcon flies back in, Vader goes “what?” and Han cheers “yahoo!” well I defy you not to fist-bump the air and cheer in the movie theatre). However, “and go home”? Really? He knows Luke’s home got burned down and his family killed like just a couple of days before? Leia would have been listening too, “all go home”? He knows her home planet was blown up? And as for Han himself, where does he live? He lives on the Falcon right? I don’t care. Even thinking about that moment in the film brings shivers down my spine.

I have more Lego sketches to share, but it’s late and I’m going to bed, thinking about Star Wars, because thinking about Star Wars is a helluva lot better than not thinking about Star Wars. As Ben Kenobi once said, “who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”

AT-AT walker, step by step

ATAT build 1
Look what I got for Christmas! I know, more Star Wars and Lego, but I have wanted this for ages. It’s probably my favourite vehicle in Star Wars (and, um, therefore anywhere), though the Millennium Falcon is also up there (with the Snowspeeder not far behind, I love that little thing). The AT-AT, which I do pronounce attatt (not spelling out the letters), also know as Imperial Walker, the big armoured behemoths from The Empire Strikes Back. I remember getting the toy one as a kid at Christmas, I must have been about six or seven, and I remember the big box, it was the pride of my collection. This Lego version took significantly longer to put together, and well, I love it. I sketched the steps of building it. Above, it looks more like the skeleton of a small ship that the snowtroopers have cobbled together. Below, the armour is starting to take shape, the feet are built and the neck has been screwed on.
ATAT build 2<
Then, I added the legs. I lay it on its side. It’s quite tall, and surprisingly sturdy. Lego is very technical these days.
ATAT build 3
And then it was done! Took me a few days to complete, but I took my time, enjoyed it. Now battle commences. General Veers, prepare your men.
ATAT Lego