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Totally Worth It

Charlie: Don't be fooled by my name and photo above; this is Mark's final post, as promised in our farewell to him last week (click here for that). Only Mark could've made a post about his own impending death this humorous. It's about the hobby from the perspective of a dying man, and since we're all mortal, this seems relevant to all of us. I'd like to spin this intro out for longer, because  I keep feeling like just one more sentence might convey the sense of bewilderment and sadness here at the Beard Bunker, but I already said my piece last week, and this is Mark's post, not mine. Without further ado, here it is.


You, sir, are metal.

Mark: This will (hopefully) be the Beard Bunker’s first post from beyond the grave. If you are reading this, I am dead.* Deader than a can of spam. Deader than the moshpit at a Coldplay gig. I imagine that the Beard Bunker personnel will be keen to keep this as the last postmortem post for a while, probably for about 40 years or so.

If you’re interested as to why: I rolled a succession of critical fails on the ‘Don’t Die’ table. These consisted of critical fails for genetics, body awareness, cancer treatment and metastatic cancer spread.

Whilst this post will predominantly be about hobby stuff, there will be a more serious bit at the end about the cancer that got me.

As I approach death, many naysayers and hobby sneerers (you know the sort) might imagine that I’ll have some sort of Damascene conversion, look at my hordes of Orks and think to myself:


In truth, I really don’t think I have. Granted, I’ve spent some glorious sunny days hunched over a desk, in the dark, with two desk lights running whilst I chunk out vehicles, Orks or Gretchin.

But I’ve also wasted days like that, lurking in the pit of my bed with a brutal hangover. Which has been the better use of my time?

I’ve created stuff. It might not be the best painted stuff in the world but it is mine, and no-one else can say that about that model, or story or building. Its mine and the result of my effort, time and concentration, and no-one can take that away.

And as a result of that effort, I have two big, good looking armies that I'm genuinely proud of.

Clan Voltik

Big Yeller close

Big Yeller further away. Also, bottom right: da lootie 'fex.

[Editor's note: Mark left instructions for us to post a photo of his entire ork army. No such photo exists, as we're still sorting his stuff, and it's huge. Rest assured that when the dust has settled we'll do a full army showcase of the Crooked Hand Waaaagh! as it deserves to be seen in full.]

More importantly, these armies have enabled me to play a lot of silly games with some very good people, and that’s been the core of my enjoyment with these armies.

A point about our hobby is that, however reclusive or introverted you are, the most fun you’re likely to have with the hobby will be with people - whether that’s playing games, or hanging out painting little plastic men.

And some of the games have been glorious: we had a week long Warhammer campaign with a mixture of grand battles, roleplay and skirmishes in 2013 that I remember fondly. We’ve played several big games at Warhamster World that have looked and felt truly epic. In one instance, Phil Stutckinsas said he liked my Orks, which is an absolutely fantastic complement. And we’ve also played a lot of big Warhammer games back in Oxford - with several filling our 6’ x 4’ table with regiments.

Phil Stutcinskas liked my Orks!

Admittedly, some of my antics have annoyed my friends immensely: Having a doom rocket land in the middle of your elite regiment at 8 in the morning tests your sense of humour somewhat. Apparently. As do Doomwheels, Skaven artillery, Skaven weapon teams. Skaven in general actually.

So no, I haven’t wasted my life. I can stare at the metaphorical approaching meteorite and be a little more at peace than Comic Book Guy. Indeed, as I put together this blog entry - which has taken me more than one sitting - I’m still making scenery, painting Orks and putting together awesome vehicles.

Recently, I finished off two jets for my Ork army which I am genuinely chuffed with. I weathered and finished them with a combination of classic GW style painting, airbrushing and oil paint weathering and I’m happy with the ‘weathered cartoon’ look that the planes have.

Dakka Jet with particularly dakka-y dakka

Yellow + fire = Waaagh!

Even when hope has been extinguished, and as I approach death; I find that the concentration required to make and paint models and the joy that comes from having completed them helps to make my final days more bearable and distract from the physical and emotional pain of disease and dying.

The victories may be pyrrhic - I’ll hardly use some of these models - but being able to revel in something I’ve created and am happy with gives a satisfaction that beats despair, at least for a while. In that regard, the hobby has been invaluable to me. I genuinely have no idea what I would have done without it at this time.

The building, converting, painting and playing part of the hobby has just been part of the total experience and I’ve also been involved in narrative play, roleplaying and GMing and the occasional boardgame - all of which contributes.

Some (but not all) of Mark's Deffskull vehicles (plus Lootie 'Fex, because yes)



Regrets, I’ve had a few. 

I think it's important to say that the hobby life has not left me entirely without regrets.

In hobby terms, there are one or two bigger projects I could or should have completed. My Blasta Bomma in particular I left far too long to gather dust even though it had the potential for true awesome in it. This may be a regret of having my life cut short rather than a hobby one though.

In real life terms, I’ve been a profligate spender - particularly during times when I’ve been unhappy or under stress and I now have an enormous pile of plastic shame that I will never paint and has cost a huge amount of money. In total, I have maybe £3,000 worth of unstarted kits kicking around. My wife now has to dispose of this enormous plastic pile. So I do regret my intemperent hobby purchases immensely because by buying this stuff, I’ve denied other things to both myself and my wife.

The hobby does have to coexist with real life and the hobby is not the sole reason that I’m reasonably happy with how my life has gone. In my time I’ve rowed at a decent level, taught people how to dive and dived myself, had a mildly successful professional career and helped raise a family.

Like the hobby though, these things have been enjoyable in their own right but have become bigger parts of my life than an ‘activity I do’ because of the social and friendship side that has accompanied them.

Certainly, diving on a World War One battleship in the cold waters of Scapa flow was made all the better by doing it with friends who would later go on to be my best man and ushers at my wedding.

So it is with the hobby - playing a game or doing a roleplay session with someone is fun, but having those people be your friends and developing the game, or the universe or characters you play with or just your friendship together makes the whole thing a cause for joy, a sense of belonging and social engagement. Adding this side of the hobby to the satisfaction of the creation and playing process makes it truly great.

With that, I’ll leave you with my thoughts on what makes for a better hobby life. As I’m dead, you can’t argue with me .

A design for Hobby Life?

Is there a design for hobby life? Probably not. But some of the things I’ve learned are:

Spending
  • Don’t buy more in a month than you can paint in a month. That way the hobby becomes affordable, sensible and psychologically less overbearing. You’ll also need a lot less storage space.
  • Buy models that you will build or paint imminently. Don’t buy models to ‘cheer yourself up’ or because you’ll get round to it one day. That’s how to spend a huge amount of money. In everything but the very short term, this will not cheer you up.
  • Money spent on good quality tools is money invested, not spent. A good tool (be it for DIY, hobby stuff, woodworking or cake making will pay for itself multiple times. I spent £70 on a Proxxon rotary tool in 2008 (a lot for me at the time) that I still use today, still works flawlessly and has allowed me to do an awful lot of good work. Similarly, a small aluminium mitre box I bought in 2011 has allowed me to make perpendicular saw cuts on plasticard for years.


Social
  • Seek out the people who you get on with and whose hobby goals and interests work with yours. Hang out with these people and if you like them, keep them as your friends. Your hobby, your life and your world will improve immensely. For those on the other side of the coin - be inclusive. It’s easy to keep someone out but the rewards are negligible, Bring someone in though and the rewards can be massive - to both you and them.
  • Play with friends, make friends and bear in mind that the social and friendship side of the hobby is the best and most rewarding part of the hobby.
  • Be aware of the impact your hobby has on your friends. Smashing face with the latest lopsided, loophole abusing net-list might be fun for you - but is it fun for your opponent? Conversely, is there an aspect of the hobby your friends love? Make sure you do some of that with them.
  • Don’t rely on the hobby for everything. The hobby needs to be part of a bigger life and you need to get out there and find it. If you aren’t sure how to do that then two starting points are:
    • Be yourself - don’t try to be anyone else.
    • Be the best version of yourself that you can be.
  • Enjoy the hobby and don’t let it be something that limits you.



Getting Stuff Done

  • Pick your fights. Save the fifth highlighting stage for your Warboss, not your grots.
  • Don’t get caught in the hype. Pick a project you’re excited about and stick to it. If you keep switching between different things, you’ll never get anything significant done.
  • Keep chipping away at it. If you do just a little bit (30 - 60 minutes) each day - even if its on a big pile of models - you’ll be surprised how quickly stuff gets done.
  • Don’t get cancer and die.

And that’s it for now. Well, for ever really. I think the last thing I’ll do is leave with a couple of bits I’ve done over the years that I’ve been particularly happy with - a bit of a character and army showcase.

*Obviously, I wrote this before I died. Bloggers are persistent but usually give up after they die, unlike Tupac.


Appendix - Cancer stuff

I died because of bowel cancer. I probably had bowel cancer for a number of years before it actually did something sufficiently obnoxious (blocked my colon) for me to definitely get my symptoms checked out. By that stage it had metastasised and it was too late for the most effective (i.e. potentially life saving) treatment routes.

However, I had been having symptoms for some time prior to the actual diagnosis which I should have got checked out. It might have saved my life. By ignoring symptoms and failing to seek advice, I killed myself. This was stupid.

Bowel cancer amongst the young (well, under about 70) is rare, but it is on the rise and the reasons why aren’t really understood fully.

Symptoms include:
  • Persistent change in bowel habits
  • Blood in stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Night sweats
  • Persistent or unexplained tiredness
  • Unexpected weight loss

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get them checked out as soon as possible - Don’t put it off as I did.

I have very much skimmed the surface of this topic. There is more information below:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-cancer/

https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9Jmavoj74wIVibPtCh0PjADHEAAYASAAEgJxwPD_BwE

* * *

Charlie: that's it from Mark. If you have any comments, questions or messages you would like us to pass on, leave them in the comments.

Comments

  1. What an amazing person to be able to look death in the face and laugh.

    Wish I had known him

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    1. Thanks :) ...hopefully when we have a chance to post a full showcase of the Crooked Hand Waaaagh! you shall know him vicariously by his works.

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    2. You do know him, you just dont know it yet. He is everyone you havent started talking to yet.

      <3

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  2. Brave, and hilarious. Thanks for sharing with the community.

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  3. I very much appreciate you posting Mark's work. He was obviously a bright, funny, thoughtful, introspective person (....for a Skaven player...)

    May Gork, Mork, The Emperor, The Horned Rat, Sigmar, and all the others watch over him on his journey.

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    1. My thanks, Adán. You're correct on every count, even if sometimes he was only thoughtful *after* something blew up in his face... which, for a Skaven player, makes a lot of sense. :P

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  4. I love those Dakka Jets, I remember the posts about the yellow nosed WW2 scheme. Glorious. I think I would have liked Mark if I had met him. My Dad died the same, get that shit checked out folks, literally, and give a little cash to Cancer Research to beat this bastard! RIP Mark and looking forward to seeing your entire Waaagh!

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  5. Great post.

    Some of my best friends started out being hobby associates, but became friends who have enriched my life for decades.
    I expect that Mark would have fit in with them nicely.

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    1. Mark was definitely one of those people who I would never have met were it not for a mutual love of Warhammer. It's 100% the best thing about this hobby.

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  6. That got me in the guts, well said and here's to the next life if there's such a thing.

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    1. If there is a next life, his will involve fast cars and comfy slippers.

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  7. That was an excellent post, it got me right in the feels. It is a wonderfully enriching hobby, and it looks like he made the very most of it. I expect Mark and I would have gotten on famously.

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    1. He was a very affable chap, so I imagine you would have :)

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  8. It's really strange to read a hobby blog that fills you with a sense of loss and sadness. Everything that stands out in Mark's collection, like the looted Deffskull Spartan, or the well-judged cutting in of dark panels on Big Yeller's hull come with a little stabbing reminder about mortality. Thanks for taking the time to put this together and publish it.

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    1. Very well put, Curis. I suspect I'll feel the exact same way when we put together the face-meltingly big showcase of his Crooked Hand Waaaagh! orks.

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  9. Great blog. I hope that when my time comes I can look it in the face and crack some jokes like Mark did. If theres anything waiting for us up there I hope I'll get to throw a few dice with him someday

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    1. Make sure you bring spares. Gaming aids had a mystical ability to gravitate to his side of the table. :P

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  10. It pleases me immensely to have read this, and saddens me that we, to the best of my knowledge, never met. Some fantastic writing, great advice and sound ideas.

    A rare breed indeed.

    Rest well kind man.

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    1. Thanks Chase. If only there were more like him the world would be better, if slightly more chaotic place

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  11. He sounds like he was an incredible individual. I have always appreciated candor, honesty and obviously, a great sense of humour. It's sad to lose someone like this, never mind from the hobby, but from the. A world that continues to develope in so many disappointing ways these days with the hurt people cause and the selfishness I see/hear from the news... I wasn't going going to have kids because of overpopulation, until my friend suggested that if the only people having children were the ones to didn't care about the world, it would be populated by ass holes. I have two now, two boys... And if either of them turn out like the impression i have of mark from this post, I feel like I will have done something right.

    My thoughts go out to yourselves and his family. I'm a bit sad now, but really glad I got to read this. Thank you.

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    1. My thanks; I hope your two boys grow up to be full of humour, whimsey, and Mark's concern for the safety of others. It sounds like they're in good hands :)

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  12. I don't really know what to say, because this article actually leaves me speechless. I just wanted to thank you all for sharing this, a well written post from a fellow hobby enthusiast like the most of us. I will definitely keep his advice in mind for continuing this awesome hobby.

    I wish you all a lot of strength in the coming time, may his memory live on through this amazing blog!

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    1. Thanks Tom! We'll do our best to keep the blog amazing :)

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  13. So glad I read this, only thing to say is thank you Mark, and you too Charlie for posting it. A big loss for you guys.

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    1. Thanks Rebalum; the response from the community has been incredibly touching to those of us still left in the Beard Bunker :)

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  14. I suspect that me and Mark would have gotten on very well - he sounds exactly the sort of person that I aspire to be and meet in this hobby.

    As a newcomer to this blog and what it brings, thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Kieren, and welcome to the Beard Bunker! Hopefully we'll be celebrating the hobby on our tiny corner of the intertubes for many more years... and if we don't, Mark will probably come back to haunt us like a sort of affable ghost. :)

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  15. Farwell, I wish you a even better life now

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  16. Damn it. I'm new to the hobby and THIS is how I find out about this guy? Fuck.

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    1. What I'm learning from the community's response to this post is that there are many excellent people engaged in our hobby :)

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  17. I knew what I was about to read but the article made me so emotional anyway.
    Best of wishes and condolenses to his family and friends.

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  18. Hello Mark, and Charlie,
    Thanks so much for posting this Charlie.
    Mark, I know you are on the other side and will get a chance to read this at some time. What a fantastic painter you are! I would have loved to game with you, or had you in our group. Even though we play historical games pretty exclusively. Your Orc army IS superb!
    The key to your post for me was about the friends you get to game with. Mine are my best friends, we have each others back. Help each other move, suffer pain when we are unwell or have a loss. Celebrate gaming wins or losses with a hand shake and say "good game" after each one, no matter who won or lost. Rest easy over there. Somehow I know you will be back to paint a few more figures.
    Kind Regards,
    Thomas

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  19. Thank you so much for sharing this and God bless you and Mark. May you play out all the scenarios in the afterlife that you left on the table in the here and now Mark. WAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!

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    1. There were so many scenarios and campaigns we were planning that we still wanted to run and couldn't get to before then end. Hopefully when I ride to Valhalla he'll have the boards set up ready and waiting in the Afterwaaaagh!

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  20. What a fantastic read and sounds like a fantastic guy. Everyone should read this - hobbyist or not! Re-tweet!

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    1. "Re-tweet!": the blogospheric equivalent of Immortan Joe's war boys screaming "witness!" :P

      The sentiment is well-taken :)

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  21. A great post from, obviously, a great guy. Sorry for your loss Charlie.

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  22. Amazing read. Really touching and honest reflection on ones own life when many wouldn't have the strength to do so, let alome with so much humor. I'll take his list of hobby tips with me, they were both useful and good life lessons in general I think. Condolences, and best wishes to you and yours. He seemed like an awesome dude to have in your life :)

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    1. Thanks Gnulash, we're certainly taking the lessons to heart as well.

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  23. This blog has made its way to Sydney Australia. Mark was no doubt like many of us gamer's and when we roll snake eyes on the game of life, there's no re-roll's or looking up the rules for ways out of it.

    Its very sad to read as he has figured out many things in his short time that many of us never will. To his gaming mates, keep his memory going and tell those stories of how he ruined your day. A good laugh is the best medicine. For his family, there will be no laughing for a while, but I hope the pain goes away and leaves nothing but happy memories.

    Thanks for posting and sharing, there is something in here for everyone, gamer or normal person.

    Cheers,

    Ant

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    1. You're absolutely right about laughter being the best medicine, and we'll absolutely hang on to tales of his dastardly exploits. Thanks Ant, that's much appreciated :)

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  24. Mark sounded like a scholar and a gentleman and as a fellow ork player, I salute you.

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    1. If Mark was here he would totally respond by throwing horns. Or shaking your hand and offering to buy you a pint. Kindof a coin toss, that one.

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  25. Nice one mate, you went down fighting. Best way to go, when you gotta. RiP.

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