Not a word I’d heard before I started working around cable-laying ships. In an idle moment, I happened to type it into Wikipedia. That’s always fatal – I spent the next three hours with Jefferson (thought to have introduced the word to the English language in a letter to Thomas Paine about the construction of a bridge) Galileo, Robert Hooke, and the Bernoulli family. Then I went off at a tangent to Daniel Bernouilli (the real question is why the air over the top of an airfoil speeds up). Anyway, mathematicians and physicists have been arguing about the whys and wherefores of catenaries for nearly 400 years and all it is, is the curve assumed by an idealised chain or cable, hanging by its own weight, when supported only at its ends. That people would even think to theorise and consider scientifically something so apparently mundane, suggests to me that I’ve gone through life with my eyes closed.

A storm brewing meant a few hours R & R.

We’ve worked in all sorts of conditions but the one that mostly halts operations, is the wind. When it starts to gust around 40kn, things can get a bit hairy if the ship and the shore are connected – nearly 10,000 tons of ship swinging about on the end of a not particularly flexible cable, can prove expensive if it gets out of hand. A rope is substituted at a convenient point and we stand down until the wind dies.

Time for some research. Our nearest town is Kirkkonummi which, like most of the towns around here, sports one of these charming railway station buildings; you almost want to catch a train, just for the pleasure of being in the station.

With the sky clearing and still an hour or two to kick my heels, I took the road to Inga. It looked on the map like it would be a coastal village, steeped in history and ancient wooden houses. Wrong, it was a small, relatively modern development, centred around a marina and a few rather expensive looking shops. Only a 700 year old stone church – its ‘Flintstone’ style oddly out of kilter – suggested a past. I later learnt that, not unlike parts of the Norfolk coast, only about a third of the residents are permanent. Inga is pretty much empty out of season. I didn’t stop, but carried on along a gravel road that took me deep into the forest….

… where I stumbled across the Fagervik Rautatehdas. Once a thriving enterprise, the preserved ironworks and estate is still owned by the same family, nine generations on. Everything was closed when I passed by but there’s a fine manor house, gardens in the French style and a Chinese pavilion, all dating from the latter half of the 1700’s and very reminiscent of the Fabrica de Orbaitzeta in the Pyrenees.

Back at work, as the sun rose over the bay, the spiders webs on the pontoon sparkled with dew.

The silk joining the spokes of the webs are catenaries too.


That’s Better.

The other day, I did something deeply satisfying. I opened my second floor study window and hurled my HP printer at the concrete below. The printer had given me grief from the moment I bought it three years ago and I’d finally had enough of reloading the drivers, it telling me it couldn’t print because of fault XX0013425709 (obviously) and the massively expensive ink drying up as soon as my back was turned. Good riddance. I could then concentrate on cleaning and polishing the Sunbeam and Straker Squire bits and pieces, ready for copper plating.

That went well – thank goodness. It can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss for reasons that are often rather mystifying.

And then I was back in Sweden on the night-shift. I never get much sleep during the day so a wander round the town looking for things I might have missed on previous visits is an option. There are two churches in the middle of Karlskrona; this one was built in the 18thC for the German population. It has a rather interesting ‘in the round’ layout and a huge domed rotunda ….

… at the top of which is a plaque with what looks like Hebrew script. There’s another, slightly older church in the Stortorget, equally vast and, with the exception of a magnificent organ, equally plain inside. A concert was being filmed when I popped my head round the door, so I retreated.

A bit of Brutalist ornament on the public library ended my explorations and later that evening,

…. we said goodbye to the Bodo Constructor, packed up our gear and left for Finland. Photography on the various cable manufacturers premises is strictly forbidden. So, imagine our delight when we got to the Prysmian site in Pikkala and discovered a promotional video made by the company and posted on Youtube! At last the story of our band of merry Magneteers could be told. Here’s the link:

There was the usual couple of days delay before things got going at Pikkala and I was obliged to Dan Wilson for alerting me to the Akseli Gallen-Kallela Museum (the artist’s former residence) a few minutes down the road at Espoo.

Gallen-Kallela’s more well-known paintings are distributed around major galleries – this triptych is in the Finnish National. The Espoo museum’s permanent collection is charming enough, though a little underwhelming.

This was the most striking of the paintings – most of the portraits were of Akseli’s wife, Mary.

This poster was high up and difficult to photograph. It’s been the subject of some argument. Long understood to have been produced for a Finnish car maker, Bill Aktie Bolaget, this has been questioned as there was no such company in Finland though there was one in Sweden. The illustration is a modernised version of a 19thC folk story involving the snatching of Kylliki, a character in the Finnish epic, Kalevela. If nothing else, it showed the artist’s range.

I know I probably shouldn’t say so but, the highlight of the trip for me was the tea-room.

And inside, it was even better.


Up betimes, and so to the Finnish National Gallery (I’ve been listening to Pepy’s diaries).

I’ve always loved a salon style exhibition – it’s the way I hang pictures on my own walls – and this arrangement was continued throughout the Ateneum Gallery which exhibits mainly Finnish art …

…. though there are a few exceptions. The Ateneum is one of three galleries which come under the umbrella of the National Gallery, the others being the Museum of Contemporary Art – Kiasma, and The Sinbrychoff Art Museum which houses older European Masters. As I was interested this time in seeing mostly the late 19th and early 20th century Finnish art, I spent the few hours I had at the Ateneum.

‘Lake Shore with Reeds’, by Eero Järnefelt, set the scene, it reminding me of the shoreline where we load the cable-laying ships at Pikkala.

Torsten Wasastjerna’s ‘French Women Ironing’, took my eye ….

as did ‘The Convalescent’, by Helene Schjerfbeck. Though praised in the Paris Salon in the late 1880’s, it’s reception in Finland was mixed as the painting was considered excessively realistic. Interestingly, the picture was painted in St. Ives, Cornwall.

Equally realistic was Louis Sparre’s, ‘First Snow’. Once again, the lighting wasn’t great – often the overhead spots would either reflect in the varnish or cause the top rail of the frame to cast a shadow on the work as on ‘The Rope Dancer’ by Ole Kandelin.

The children’s books written by Arseniy Lapin, a Russian artist and Master puppeteer, have quite unique, almost other worldly, illustrations.

His painting, ‘Singing Fishes’, and this figure in the gallery,

… had a similar feel. Lapin’s work, for anyone interested in children’s books, is well worth investigating. I managed to get round the Ateneum twice in the few hours I had to spare. If there’s an opportunity, Kiasma will be next.

I collected my fellow Magneteer from Helsinki airport and, as we drove to Pikkala, a call came through to tell us that the job had been postponed. That gave us the next day to explore before flying home a day later. We came across an old military airfield at Nummela, now used mainly for gliding. The club’s tug aircraft was this very rare PIK-15. It would have been nice to have had a go in it; it looked, and is reputed to be, something of a performer.

Like this chap – a self-launching glider with a small motor and folding propeller in the nose. And that was the end of our brief stay in Finland.

We had a silly o’clock departure from Helsinki; a stop in Stockholm before catching an SAS flight back to Heathrow and then, a surprisingly clear run around the M25 on the way to our respective homes. 48 hours later, we were back in Sweden for 4 days with a short load-out before preparing to move on to start the postponed job in Finland.

And to finish, a last piece from the splendid National Gallery, Mauri Favén’s ‘Dawn’.

On The Road Again.

Though I wasn’t particularly looking forward to struggling with the pinion carrier, I suspected that as I’d been careful to assemble everything with new aircraft quality hardware and then covered the lot with lashings of ‘bear grease’, it would be a fairly straightforward task until I came to the adjustment. The Great Collector had the gen somewhere in his files so at least I’d be able to refresh my memory on the procedure.

We were in Rognan for only a few days and before we left, I wandered out to the harbour and took a few early morning pic’s for the record.

Finding abandoned boats is becoming a bit of a mission…

…. and a last look at the fjord before the off – for me, not back home, but relocating to Pikkala in Finland.

I dropped off at Bodo airport my fellow Magneteer and, as I had a couple of hours to kill before my flight, a quick whizz around the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum which is only a couple of minutes away from the terminal, filled the time nicely. Leaving on a sunny afternoon afforded a view of the extraordinary landscape beneath us.

I’m obliged to the young lady occupying the window seat for this picture of our climb out. – soon this will be covered in snow and the lake iced over. I got to Helsinki quite late at night, hired a car and put up at the Clarion Hotel, a mile or two from the airport. As my new fellow Magneteer wasn’t due in until late the following day, I was able to visit two museums which, in all my trips to Finland, had so far eluded me: the Finnish Aviation Museum in Helsinki and the Finnish National Gallery .

The aviation museum was a real treat with a selection of homebuilt, military and civil aircraft, many of which were new to me.

Gliders and motor gliders dangled from the ceiling;

… this two-seater Polikarpov was a rare one – I seem to remember seeing a single-seater displayed at La Ferté Alais years ago.

No collection is complete without an example of Mignet’s Flying Flea.

The Eklund TE-1, an interesting little aircraft which started out as an amphibian with a 28hp motor. It could hardly stagger into the air so the undercarriage was removed and a 40hp engine installed, thus creating the world’s smallest seaplane.

The highlight was this collection of early model aircraft radio control sets, all of which were completely familiar. The Graupner ‘Bellaphon’ set which operated ‘Bellamatic’ servos was, I think, our second radio set. The cream coloured push-button set to its left was our first and was installed in a Hegi ‘Pascha’ glider, complete with a detachable pylon for an ED ‘Baby’ diesel engine….

… not unlike the ED Hornet here. It was a real treat to see all this model aircraft paraphernalia gathered in one place and I congratulate the curators for including this often over-looked but important genre.

I’d read several on-line reviews for the National Gallery; they were mixed, though the majority complimentary. Some complained of the €15 entrance fee, others, the limited collection or the lack of big names. Still more took issue with the salon style of hanging and one very clever person, who confessed to not going in, was able to compare it unfavourably to the Hermitage in St Petersburg!

It sounded right up my street.

Neste Uke….

… Rognan.

My fellow Magneteer and I left Heathrow in glorious sunshine, landed in Oslo in equally fine weather (if a couple of degrees cooler) but the next leg of our trip which took us North of the Arctic Circle, presented a gloomier picture. The sun disappeared and layers of cloud and torrential rain threw us around on our descent into a very wet and grey Bodo airport.

We rented a Tonka Toy-cum-Transformer and drove for about an hour and a half to a dry and much happier looking Rognan, home to another Nexans cable factory and one of my favourite postings. The scenery is stunning and the Rognan Hotel, though sparsely appointed, has incredibly comfortable beds,

and a splendid view from the breakfast table. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Following my return from Germany on Thursday, orders came through on Friday for a silly o’clock departure (to Rognan) on Sunday morning, making Saturday the only window for a run out in the Hillman.

Still, I had most of Friday free which gave me time to collect and deliver to the silk factory a whole lot of brackets (that I’d organised to have laser-cut and powder-coated while I was away) and then have a day out with The Ambassador’s Daughter, rowing up the River Stour to Flatford Mill and, staying with the milling theme, lunch at Pin Mill on the Orwell.

A Wherry was moored up on the jetty at Pin Mill though the really interesting stuff from an arty point of view, was a walk through the woods, a scramble down a bank and then over a wall to see the derelict boats lying in the mud.

Saturday’s outing took in Awkward and Leon’s workshop where the Avon’s engine, complete with natty flywheel balancing fandango, had been reinstalled after a long rebuild. The jury is out on the effectiveness of the new fandango as the engine is still very tight; full chat is a bit of a way off.

Brunch at a new café in Kenninghall – one to add to the list – and a flying visit to Old Buckenham airfield before moving on through Attleborough…… where something in the back axle started to complain. As we were only a couple of miles from Very Learned Counsel’s works we called in, jacked up the back and couldn’t, initially, find anything wrong…

… until I gave the propshaft a good rattle. The pinion which meshes with the crown wheel and links the propshaft to the diff, is housed in a detachable casting and contains two taper-roller bearings. The front bearing had collapsed so we weren’t going anywhere else that day unless on a trailer. Hats off to R H Insurance! Their recovery procedure couldn’t be faulted and the Hillman was back in its garage a couple of hours later. As far as the pinion carrier is concerned, I remember that adjusting the end float and the meshing was a completely baffling exercise. Maybe I didn’t get it as right as I thought I did?

I’ll find out next week.

Niederlande und Deutschland.

It’s not unusual that at the last minute something goes wrong. This time it was Van Bloord who put his socks in the toaster and the loading operation ground to a halt with only a couple of hours to go and, frustratingly, in sight of the end of the cable. Still, the Dutch cable-layer, Nexus, which had been our home for the past week or so, was a very new and comfortable ship with every facility that you’d expect in a decent hotel.

An excellent galley with a mostly far-eastern influenced menu (plus the odd temptation with origins nearer to home) meant that an extra 24 hours on board was not an onerous prospect.

Of course, that stretched to 48 hours by the time someone had found a biro to sign off on the repairs but,

the crew I was working with were a jolly bunch and there was never a dull moment (or shortage of pie).

Our tent on the dockside at Vlissingen wasn’t conducive to making progress with the Alvis project. A plague of wasps at intervals kept me occupied – having to wear reflective orange and yellow safety clothing was like red rag to a bull – so to speak.

Though there was a restricted view from my cabin window – at least I had a window – wandering around the dock and the deck at various times of the day and night, saw plenty to keep me amused.

These steel structures had a touch of Easter Island about them,

… and the constant comings and goings of dredgers and barges to the gravel works next door probably kept a few people awake. Unless you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to forget that the world is a 24/7 operation – it never sleeps.

At the end of the job, I dropped my fellow magneteer at Schiphol airport and carried on northwards up the E22 to my next stop, a cable factory in Nordenham, Germany, where I joined Janecki z Krakova for another week’s load-out.

We always stay at a very comfortable hotel in the Marktplatz. Nobody seemed the slightest bit concerned that an alien space ship was wedged in the ceiling of the dining room – a new addition since my last visit – and a radio came on when you stepped into your ensuite; a must-have convenience for the modern adventurer.

A screen shot from the company’s website (fotografie ist in der fabrik verboten) shows the little hut where we work, sitting out over the river Weser where the pier turns 90°. It wobbles occasionally.

Unlike the cabin on the Nexus, the view from our hut’s window often had something of interest to gawp at. This ketch slipped by in the pouring rain and there was a steady stream of barges into and out of an aggregate factory a few yards downstream. A couple of years ago, the Tall Ships went past – I missed that spectacle by a week, but our work’s manager managed to grab a couple of snaps (see ‘All Rush ‘n’ Tear).

Ich frage mich, wo ich nächste Woche sein werde?

The Weather Continued Fine.

A good excuse to jump in the Hillman and visit a few chums.

The first port of call was Awkward though he wasn’t at his workshop (he might have finished the rebuild on the Avon’s engine and gone out for a test run) so the next stop was Very Learned Counsel’s emporium where there’s always something interesting to look at. The Great Collector’s Humber 14/40 engine was in for the fitting of a new block (he had one spare) which, as the engine was stripped, turned quickly into a major rebuild. Interestingly, the new block was 3mm taller than the old one so the clearances were completely out. Luckily, there was enough meat on the bottom to skim off the necessary.

This magnificent 10 litre Daimler engine was also in for a rebuild….

… as was the suspension on this Rover P100 – Very Learned Counsel’s soon-to-be daily driver. This is the 6 cylinder model and, coincidentally, it’s rumoured that The Great Collector has spotted a 105S in the vicinity (the sporty high-compression model and good for 101mph when new) and, naturally, is on the trail! Dropping in to Old Buckenham airfield, a couple of old flying chums who run Black Barn Aviation were taking in the sun – they’ve rebuilt at least 15 Boeing Stearmans in the last 20 years or so; they deserve a break.

Back home, I’ve finished gathering the bits for the wheeling machine kit but haven’t had the chance to weld it up yet as…

…. work got in the way. I had 4 of these manifolds to make and also a couple of saddles (the green bits) for some roof beam reinforcements in the cow shed.

And the next thing I knew, I was staring back at the White Cliffs of Dover, on my way to Holland for a magnetising job….

… in Middleburg, where I had a day to have a quick look around the town – heading, of course, for the local Zeeuws (Zeelander) museum and gallery.

The three paintings in the top row were particularly good but unfortunately, the whole museum was let down by the lighting. Maladjusted spotlights are seriously bad news in a gallery.

There was a whole Jan Van Eyck thing going on in the reflections on this kettle but the joke was spoilt by poorly positioned lights.

I enjoyed this view of the city of Veere (I forgot to note the artist’s name) and…

… an interior scene common to a lot of the galleries I visit, ‘Saying Grace’, (1907) this by Jan Toroop.

My favourite painting wasn’t in the museum but in a shop window in the artist’s district of Middleburg. It couldn’t be anywhere else but Holland and the palette was perfect for my taste. A few doors along from this painting was a second-hand bookshop with boxes of books on the pavement. A copy of Searle and Atkinson’s illustrated, ‘Escape from the Amazon’, complete with a good dust jacket was mine for the princely sum of €1.

Whether or not it was a fine buy, remains to be seen.