Thursday, 15 November 2012


So, I had taken delivery of 96 metal warriors in their little plastic boxes. They were no doubt very tired after their long journey from Nottingham and in desperate need of a good hot bath...

For those who don't know such things, the miniature figures we all know and love are made by pouring molten metal into  moulds; letting it cool; open it up and "Voila!" To help facilitate the figures' freedom from the mould a release agent is used. This is usually a very fine powder such as talc although some processes use silicon sprays. Whatever the agent is it needs to be cleaned off the figures because if it stops the figures sticking to something it will also stop something sticking to the figures; that "something" being paint!

Cleaning metal figures only needs a smattering of household items but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a separate stash of these items just for this job; it will save your marriage and lessen the risk of embarrassing personal injury. The essential things you will need are:

Bath Time.

Some kind of medium to large bowl
A couple of toothbrushes
Washing-up liquid

I also add a splash of Dettol (which goes by the moniker Pine-Sol in some parts of the world) as this seems to give the process an edge and really gets into the nooks and crannies. It is also a good idea to wear gloves (household rubber gloves or surgical latex rather than woolen) as after a scrubbing a few figures your fingers will suffer.

Fill the bowl to about a third of its capacity, add some washing-up liquid, bung in the figures and start scrubbing with your toothbrush. Do NOT under any circumstances use your significant other's super duper electric toothbrush with gum masseur and palate scraper. They don't like it...

Mrs Zulu Dalek suggesting I do NOT use her toothbrush to clean figures... me!

 Any old toothbrush will do but the harder the better.

So... Give the boys a jolly good scrub all over not forgetting to wash behind their ears and under their little loincloths. Don't be afraid to use quite a lot of pressure as it is very unlikely that the toothbrush will do any damage whatsoever. You want these figures to shine. You will notice the difference quite quickly between the great unwashed and the sparkly washed. Pile all you clean figures on one side until they are all done. Then empty your washing bowl, rinse it out and fill with cold water. Put the figures in this to rinse off any of the cleaning solution. You might need to do this a couple of times but it is important.

When you are happy that they are nice and clean and rinsed properly lay them out to to dry. I just put my Ila army on a cloth in a warm place to let them dry naturally but you can use a hairdryer if you are in a hurry.

A nice and shiny Ila Army (with a few guests)

The more observant among you will have noticed a tea-strainer in my photograph. Quite an important bit of kit if your figures have separate shields, knobkerries, spears or handbags; it helps when rinsing them off so you don't lose things down the plug'ole.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

To Begin At The Beginning...

Background Reading On The Ila.

Background Reading.

As I have already mentioned, I am very new to all this and as far as I know none of my circle of friends shares my interest. If I was going to create an Ila army I was going to have to find out everything I needed on my tod. Luckily, as I have already related, fate had already played a hand in this project; my wife hails from Zambia which is where the Ila originate from and that nice Mr Eyre at North Star had some splendid figures in production. But what would I do with them once in my possession? How were they organised? How did they dress? What did they eat? Browsing the shelves in my local bookshop I found plenty of stuff about Zulus and Rorke's Drift and even the Masai but nothing about the Ila. I asked the pleasant young lady behind the counter  to have a quick look on her computer but alas this proved fruitless. I would have to go it alone... 

I  started at the only tangible reference point I had which was the Ila page in the North Star catalogue. Apart from the usual pics of the range there was a link to an article by a leading expert on the armies of C19th Africa, Mr Chris Peers. I now had a starting point to work from. Through this article I found that Mr Peers had written (one of many) a book,  Armies of the C19th: Africa. Central Africa. Tribal and Colonial Armies in the Congo Rwand, Burundi, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, 1800 to 1900.

Chris Peers' Splendid Little book

This  has become my central reference guide on this project and I recommend that anyone interested in African history or wargaming the period gets a copy, it's available from North star. Fascinating reading.

The best thing about decent  reference books is that there is usually an extensive bibliography at the back and Peers' book is no exception. Thing is, many of the books mentioned are out of print. However the same powers that allow me to share these missives is there to assist. After Googling the night away I eventually found a website called Internet Archive. This is a fantastic site with millions of different documents, texts, pictorial media and music. I recommend you get yourself the Digital Library Card for this site. All the documents are free to download in various formats including PDF and Kindle. Check it out...

Several of the books in Peers' bibliography are available on this site; among the most useful being...

Smith, Edwin W., The Ila-Speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia vol.1

Smith, Edwin W., The Ila-Speaking People of Northern Rhodesia vol.2

Coillard, Francois, On the Threshold of Central Africa, A Record of 20 Years' Pioneering Among the Barotsi of the Upper Zambesi
http://onthethresholdofcen00coil is a veritable bottomless ocean of resources for any period of history and has given me good reason to buy a Kindle to store these wonderful free tomes. It is also pretty nifty for any Dead Heads out there as it has 8989 live Grateful Dead concerts in its amazing music archive!

These books, and Peers',  formed the basis of the in depth research I did on the Ila. I used several books for general background reading including Victorian Colonial Warfare-Africa by Donald Featherstone which is easy to read and has lots of pictures! I was also able to make use of  a splendid article by Rick Priestley in Wargames Illustrated 292, "We Come For Your Cattle", which was a battle report of a confrontation between the Ila and the Matabele. This article was more useful when I started painting and basing the figures and will crop up again a later post.

After a lot of reading and note taking and chatting with Mrs Zulu dalek I felt I knew enough about the Ila to do them justice. Time to switch on the lights in my Indoor Downstairs Shed and get my hands dirty...

But until then...just chill....


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Nyama, Yams, And Yorkshire Puddings...

  My Sunday posts are going to be a little bit special and certainly very different compared to my usual  Blog content. Having spent several years as a chef  and a few more reading up on odd recipes I thought it would be nice to combine business with pleasure and bung this accumulated wisdom onto the electronic pages of Zulu Dalek. Each Sunday will feature some aspect of  food, be it a few words on troop rations in the 19th century, a discussion on cannibalism or even the ins and outs of Nigella Lawson's decolletage...there will also be a weekly recipe which as far as possible will be something you can cook with relative ease at home. It might be something to feed the lads on Gaming Night or it might be  a delicious something or other with which  you can surprise your loved one on that special occasion.

   I will also be taking requests. If anyone really wants to know how to cook perfect poached eggs, how to bake a cake or just how to make a great salad dressing I will be only too happy to oblige. On Sunday December 2nd I be will introducing my tried and tested Idiot Proof Christmas Dinner which will help any of you strut your funky stuff on Christmas day and impress family, friends or just your drunken buddies from the pub. Anyway, this week's recipe is:


The lovely Maureen (I can't call her Mrs Zulu Dalek on a Sunday) and I enjoy these as a snack with a glass of something relaxing but they can also form part of an evening meal with a little tweaking here and there. The only special bit of kit you will need is some kind of deep fat fryer. First of all get your ingredients together...

Ingredients with all important cup of tea...

I still work in old money but I have included the new fangled metric stuff for those of you held in thrall by Brussels.

1lb (450g) Plain Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 sachet dried yeast ( I use either Allinsons or Hovis) or a teaspoon if in a tub
Half a pint (300ml)  warm (not boiling) water
Another 3-4oz (50-100g) Plain Flour for the kneading bit
The cup of tea is optional...

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. This adds air to the mix and gets rid of lumps and weevils and the like which are unnecessary to the recipe.

Weevil free...

 Now is the time to add any flavouring to the mix. as I am making sweet fritters I am adding about 4oz of sugar, a heaped teaspoon of mixed spice and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir this in with a metal spoon. Make a well in the mix and slowly pour in the warm water stirring as you go.

Gently does it...

 You should end up with a bowl of sticky glup.


 Sprinkle half the remaining flour onto your work surface; scrape the glup onto this and start kneading! Now is the time  to let your mind wander as you fold and pummel the dough into submission. Imagine you are getting your own back on the school bully or just softening up the bank manager. Add flour and knead until the dough is dry to the touch but springy.

Give me a bloody overdraft!!!

 Find a tray and put some clingfilm or grease proof paper on it. Tear the mix into  bits and roll into ping pong sized balls.

The shaping of the balls.
Balls before proving.

You should get 14-18 balls out of this mix. Lightly moisten a teatowel with warm water, cover your balls and leave in a warm place such as an airing cupboard or by a radiator for about an hour and a half. This is called proving and it's very important as this is when the yeast does its stuff.

Balls after proving.
Heat your deep fat fryer to 180C, if your fryer has a basket do not use it as your balls will stick to it and everything will go terribly wrong  . Roll each ball again and carefully drop into the hot oil leaving room for them to expand. They will sink but quickly rise to the surface.

Leave room for your balls to expand.

Let them fry for about 10 minutes then flip them over and give them another 10 minutes or so until they are an even golden brown in colour.. They should be light and crispy on the outside. When done remove them from the oil and let them drain on some kitchen towel. If you are doing a large amount just keep them warm in an oven at 100C. 

Shout something along the lines of, "They're ready!!!" or, "They've worked!!!" and serve.

The lovely Maureen modelling the finished fritters. Yum!

Tweaking Moment

If you want to use these as a side dish for an evening meal or as a savoury nibble try skipping half the sugar and adding a chopped fresh red chilli, some lemon zest and some chopped fresh coriander. Absolutely smashing with ice cold me.

Next Sunday I will provide an insight into the field rations of the average British soldier during the Zulu Campaign in 1879 and a recipe for lemon spiced chicken courtesy of  Mrs Zulu Dalek...(oops!).