Today, I Am Mostly In Oslo.

Because Bloorgs put his socks in the toaster again, the factory ground to a halt and we Magneteers were stood down for the weekend – beastly luck!

I headed for the Norsk Teknisk Museum which involved a change of train at Oslo central and out to Kjelsås, in all, just over an hour from Drammen and an affordable NOK 120 – roughly £12.

Naturally, there was quite a lot of space devoted to the machinery and history of paper production – one of Norway’s major exports. Having printed both by hand and machine, quite a lot of wallpaper over the years, this part of the museum was a happy find and gave me some ideas for a new project that employs much the same principles at one stage of the proposed process – but like project ‘X’, it’s a bit hush-hush just now.

This picture is not distorted; the Egoisten is a very thin car and the story goes that the chap who caused it to be built was sick and tired of people cadging lifts, hence there’s room only for him. It seems an unusually elaborate (and pointed) solution to what shouldn’t have been allowed to become a problem in the first place.

Likewise, this isn’t distorted either. The Hans Bjering Military Motorsled was made especially for driving in snow – there’s a pair of detachable ski’s for the front axle visible on the floor. I’m not sure why it’s so thin – the driver sat in the back while the passenger usefully blocked the view forwards; bit like the Piper L4.

This Bugatti was very appealing from the front (I know a Hillman with headlamps just like those) but it had the ugliest extended back with an extra cockpit cut in it for a second passenger.

A pretty Deperdussin – there’s one still flying with the Shuttleworth Collection….

… and a Farman Longhorn; like wide-mouthed frogs, you don’t see many of those about. Other exhibits included a particularly gruesome lot of medical instruments and a quantity of unmentionable specimens floating in jars. An unfortunately ill-lit horology section (in fact the whole museum needed attending to in this respect) funnelled the visitor into the stars and cosmos rooms (a fascinating insight into the early understanding of the Northern Lights was included). Various aspects of energy production were on display – another of Norway’s exports – and a potentially absorbing collection of mechanical musical machines ranging from a fascinating mechanical violin, to a collection of Dr Moog’s synthesisers might have held my attention for longer had it not been so difficult to see.

A muddled idea of a Norwegian Campaign and Kirk Douglas in The Heroes of Telemark, completes my knowledge of Norway’s history during the Second World War. The exhibit (where the sombre lighting was used to good effect) explaining the horrors of the building of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall by forced labour and prisoners of war enslaved by the Todt Organisation in Norway, was a star turn in the Museum’s calendar – it alone, well worth the modest admission fee.

Providing Bloorgs’ socks remain entangled in the toaster, tomorrow, I’ll be mostly in Oslo again; it’s an impressive city.


Coming Through….

Well, that was the idea but it didn’t quite work out as planned.

So Learned Counsel was occupied straightening out a chum’s Locost after a coming together with the Armco put paid to a weekend’s fun at Donnington.

A couple of days at home saw a flurry of activity in the workshop before I was off again. I had some fabrication to do and finished off the stone traps I’d started a few weeks ago and, as well, whizzed out a couple of flanges which had been on order since I went to Ramsgate. I mentioned Dickens the other day and remarked that some of his novels, Great Expectations for instance, were set nearer to Rochester than where I was in Ramsgate so, in literary mood, and as it was on the way to Big Sister’s near Ashford, a diversion was planned. The High Street, the cathedral and castle were the interesting bits.

The roof lines were a happy jumble….

… houses leaned this way and that…

And most architectural periods were represented.

Dickens was a great inventor of daft names: Charity Pecksniff (Martin Chuzzlewit), Decimus Tite Barnacle (Little Dorrit) and so forth. I happened to glance up at one of the buildings in the High Street and noticed this plaque extolling the virtues of one Sir Cloudsley Shovel. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was another of Dickens’ inventions but you’d be wrong. Incidentally, ‘The Seaplane Works’, a cafe on the High Street which serves organic food with a largely vegetarian and vegan menu, does the best chicken salad you’re likely to encounter almost anywhere. For the aviation enthusiast, some interesting pictures connected with Short Brothers and their aircraft adorn the walls (there’s a good one of the Short Satellite downstairs).

The Satellite was built for the Air Ministry’s Light Aircraft Competition at Lympne – a series of aviation events that has always inspired me because they seem to have represented all that’s great about our island’s tradition of chaps in sheds doing stuff. Perish the thought that anything even as remotely adventurous as the Lympne trials would be sanctioned nowadays.

Chatham Dockyard is a hop, skip and a jump away and promised to be an interesting diversion. However at £24 admission it became rather less interesting all of a sudden.

A couple of days later I was back in Drammen, waiting for the Nexus cable-laying ship to come in and load up. A different hotel this time and I have to take back something of what I was saying about hotel food in Norway. The Clarion Hotel in Drammen goes out of its way to provide as much fresh and healthy food as it can – it’s part of their mission statement. A selection of salads, vegetables, and speciality breads is always available and they have a preference for serving fish and white meat. Suits me.

I spotted (I could hardly miss it!) an interesting mural on the way back from the supermarket; it translates as ‘the future is open’, ‘dangerous’, ‘boundless’, ‘divided’, and a few other things which Google Translate seemed to get a bit wrong – ‘Monkey’ and ‘Mountain’ seemed out of context.

And here’s the Fjordvik, just passin’ thru’….

I Was Wandering….

… lonely as this cloud that floated on high o’er Pegwell Bay,

and remembered that I’d omitted to take a picture of the ‘Turner Contemporary’ building in Margate. I’d completed my morning checks of the electronic equipment on the beach and decided to pop down the road to get the snap while the sun was out.

And (although the sun had gone in) look what I tripped over: The Hornby Visitor Centre – I didn’t know such a thing existed and, what’s more, Now We Are 6(1), we get in half price!

I know I go on about Mr Hornby and parts of Scandinavia but here’s the proof. I could have been looking over the bridge at Växjö Station in Sweden. There were several layouts in the Centre and my walk around the exhibits was accompanied by that particular metallic slithering noise that train sets make.

The Centre had a wide selection of brands, some competitors, some acquisitions; Hornby’s history is quite complex – and this is Airfix’s first kit, a promotional construction model produced for Ferguson tractors.

Scalextric was well represented. I’d always pronounced it ‘Scalectrix’, transposing the ‘x’ and the ‘c’. I’d never thought about it until I saw it on the model here and thought I’d better check up on the spelling. Do we all say ‘Scalectrix’? It seems easier to get your tongue round than ‘Scalextric’, so my pronunciation is probably just me being lazy.

I remember my brother having one of these sets with the 60’s F1 cars….

….though we were grown up 🙂 by the time this body style appeared.

The process of making all these models was fascinating. The ‘Corgi’ brand, I seem to remember, was considered a bit better than the ‘Dinky’ brand. The amount of research, hands-on model and mould making and all the associated tool making that went into each model was extraordinary. Nowadays, the greater part of the process is by CAD and almost fully automated but the human eye still has to approve the prototype. Sometimes, a model may be an absolutely perfect replica of the full-size article but, it can still look wrong. If I could have stayed another hour, I would have settled in to watch the film about Hornby which looked very informative.

This isn’t terribly clear because it was behind glass and the lighting wasn’t helpful but it’s the female half of the mould for what looks like an ME 163 Komet kit.

And then there was a room full of these magnificent models – this an Alfa 8C, the sort of Special that I wouldn’t mind building.

And on the way back to the beach, I wondered about these clouds; they looked a bit different.

When In Margate….

It was The Ambassador’s Daughter’s birthday so what better treat than an outing to Margate, taking in the ‘Turner Contemporary’ Art Gallery.

Unfortunately, only two of the exhibition rooms were open and, as the gallery has no works of its own to act as a permanent collection, the offerings were a bit thin.

However, in the spirit of contemporary art, I took the opportunity to create my own work in this hallowed space – ‘Jacket on Bench with View of the Sea’. Naturally, pop-up art is always going to be a bit thin on intellectual content – that’s the nature of spontaneity – but as I’ve always been fascinated by the endless oscillation of the tide and the creation of new realities, ‘Jacket’, brings us face to face with the darkness of our existence as a metaphor for vegetarian ethics Wittgenstein Kafka zeitgeist UFO fishcakes – you know the sort of thing.

Tracy Emin and Turner? I can’t quite see the connection; it’s like me associating myself with Henry Ford – faintly ridiculous.

In some ways, Margate is the poor cousin of Ramsgate. Much money has been spent on restoring the latter – I learn that the town has more listed buildings than any other in the country – whereas Margate, despite having a more interesting ‘Old Town’ (reminiscent of ‘The Lanes’ in Brighton) appears neglected and slightly shabby.

Leaving Margate, lunch at the Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Café on Manston Airfield beckoned and we were not disappointed. Ham, egg and chips were especially warming on a wet and blustery day. There were two museums on the site – the café building houses excellent displays of material contemporary to the Spitfire and Hurricane – examples of which are also resident. My only complaint was the rather unnecessary attention drawn to the fact that some of the aircraft instrument’s paint was radio-active; bright yellow stickers in the cockpits and a large sign attached to the Spitfire’s hatch rather spoilt the displays.

In the RAF Manston Museum, a few yards from the café, there was all sorts of interesting stuff from the station’s history when it was first a Royal Naval Air Station until it was closed in 2014 having been a commercial airport since 1999.

Returning to Ramsgate there was another attraction which we managed to see a small part of before it closed for the day – the Ramsgate Tunnels. Ramsgate Station was originally about a mile from the sea-front – a fact not lost on holiday makers when it came to choosing between Ramsgate and Margate (whose station was closer to the beach and wasn’t at the top of a steep hill). To rectify this, a tunnel was constructed in 1863 that took the railway down to the beach, terminating in a new station adjacent to the harbour. Eventually, after several ups and downs in its fortunes, the line was privately converted into a narrow gauge electric line and continued to operate up until the 2nd World War when a network of tunnels was extended from the main tunnel and the whole used as an air-raid shelter. Ramsgate had been heavily bombed in the 1st World War so it was a welcome facility for the inhabitants of the town. The line re-opened following the cessation of hostilities and eventually closed in 1965. We were entertained with this information (and a lot more detail besides) by ‘Emma’ in the ticket office, whose passionate interest in this and the history of Ramsgate was a delight.

So, when in Ramsgate….

Further Adventures.

‘Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea…”

Thus Pip describes in ‘Great Expectations’, the salt marshes of North East Kent, where I found myself for several days, looking after some electronic equipment.

It’s not unusual on these contracts to have a day spare before things get going, so, as Ramsgate was on the doorstep and it was unlikely that I’d be coming this way again, this was an adventure not to be missed.

Apart from its proximity to Manston airfield which played a decisive role in operations conducted during the 1st and 2nd World Wars and the town’s part in the ‘little ships’ evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, I knew nothing of Ramsgate’s rich history. First recorded as a settlement sometime in the 13thC, along with Margate and Broadstairs, the town is situated in an area known as (because it once was but is no longer an island) the Isle of Thanet. The island saw quite a lot of invaders to-ing and fro-ing in ancient times, causing trouble and being beastly to the locals; a replica Viking ship presented by the Danes to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, stands just down the road in Pegwell Bay.

A wonderful mix of Regency and Victorian architecture (at least those buildings immediately adjacent to the sea front – there are some less attractive parts) gives the town a respectable, but convivial air.

This splendid lift, complete with Art Nouveau tiles, let me down from Wellington Crescent – Ramsgate’s answer to Bath’s Royal Crescent – to the harbour where the sharp-eyed would immediately recognise this very rare Edward VIII post box.

I walked straight past it but then I’m not yet a post box fancier; that may come with time of course but, possibly not.

In front of the marina and under the Royal Parade, the arches housed a mix of trades, among them cafés, a small motorcycle museum (yet to be investigated) and services for boating types supplying anchors, dodgy slip-on shoes and whatnot.

Then a brisk walk along the harbour wall in the steps of Van Gogh – a resident of the town in 1876 and who made a note of this walk in a letter to his brother Theo: “There’s a harbour full of all kinds of ships, closed in by stone jetties running into the sea on which one can walk. And further out one sees the sea in its natural state, and that’s beautiful.”

But regardless of all the wonderful architecture and all the other delights that Ramsgate had to offer, somehow it was Pip and the salt marshes that persisted in my imagination and that, despite the fact that Dickens set his story further inland and closer to Rochester, nearly 50 miles away. As I carefully picked my way through the marsh, it wouldn’t have surprised me if Magwitch had risen up in front of me – then again, even though in the film you knew he was coming, he still made you jump!

What larks!

Rules & Reg’s.

Historically, pretty much everything in Norway (and the rest of Scandinavia) is, in comparison to most of Europe, outrageously expensive – alcohol especially – the government applies punitive taxes to alcohol in a bid to stem a national drink problem.

But there’s also a sort of finger-wagging undertone which manifests itself in various inconveniences, the first of which I encountered last Saturday when I popped into the supermarket to get a well-deserved beer at the end of my 12-hour shift – 8.00pm. ‘Sorry Sir, we can’t sell alcohol after 6 o’clock on Saturdays’. I went back to the hotel and had not much more than a half pint glass of cold frothy stuff – £7.80.

I thought I’d beat the system the following Saturday by buying a couple of bottles on the way to work. ‘Sorry Sir, no alcohol sales before 8 o’clock’ (and you’ll be out of luck tomorrow – Sunday – as well chum). On Sunday evening, the hotel bar was closed and I asked the hotel receptionist why. ‘Don’t worry’, she said and with that, she disappeared behind a curtain (?) and came back with a small glass of lager (an eye-watering £8.00).

I’m no great drinker as my friends will attest but, when you’re deprived of a simple pleasure, it suddenly becomes a mission to get what you think you deserve at (almost) any price – which could be the start of a problem?

I’d taken a couple of panoramas of the dock when it suddenly occurred to me to take a vertical panorama – I nearly fell over backwards but it would be a useful technique when trying to capture a fabulous ceiling in an Italian church – I must remember that when I’m next in Naples.

During a break, when the cable we were magnetising was being tested on board the Flintstone, I ambled over to the car park to give a hand getting this Ford going (informed sources have since corrected me; it’s a Dodge). I’d noticed that it had been a more or less a static fixture over the last couple of weeks and was wondering if it actually ran.

Anyway, chap had the bonnet up but didn’t have any tools to check if he had sparks and fuel. By the time I’d got back with a screwdriver and spanners, the ambulance was hitched to a Transit and was being towed around the yard. That did the trick.

1943 apparently and in very usable condition – it sounded fine and no smoke from the exhaust as it sped away from the dock.

In idle moments, there were other activities to watch – these Leviathans trundled up and down the dock throughout the day and I remember them from my first trip to Drammen when we loaded the Olympic Commander. And, other than the cranes, I don’t, from that first trip, remember much at all except being huddled in a container on deck for a week of very cold and wet night shifts.

And when you’ve read enough books, watched enough films and twiddled your thumbs to a stop, there’s always the rain to photograph – that’s art, that is.

At the end of our stint in Drammen, we got the train back to the airport. Scandinavian trains are on time – to the second – and this one, the Airport Express, very comfortable.

There was some thought-provoking public art at the airport; perhaps a warning to those who circumvent the rules and reg’s?




That’s A Good Idea….

I bought a jar of instant coffee from the supermarket across the road from the hotel and later, unscrewing the lid, saw that there was a small red tab to assist in the removal of the airtight inner seal. Progress! No more bits-of-silver-paper-in-your-coffee woes.

I thought it was too good to be true.

The water pump on the Hillman started to play up just before I left for Norway and, as I can remove it practically blindfold, I thought I’d whip it off and replace it with my previously re-engineered spare – which I did. A 147 mile round trip went off without any problems but, the next morning I was greeted with a large puddle of water on the workshop floor.

The first pump had quite a lot of play in the bronze bush so that had to be renewed and whilst I was at it, I replaced both lip seals, both sealed bearings and, added an extra lip seal in place of the worse-than-useless felt washer which sits on the pulley end of the shaft. I don’t know why I hadn’t done that before.

The other weak point in the design is the drain hole underneath the pump which I assume gives notice of water ingress into the void between the inner and outer bearings indicating a failing seal. I bung this up with Araldite – not best practice but, buys me a few more miles as the water is held by the outer sealed bearing and the extra lip seal. I’m always looking in the radiator and constantly monitoring the gauges so I’m unlikely to be caught out…. in theory.

I didn’t have time to fully investigate the second pump which, I vaguely recall, had caused a bit of trouble before and I’d packed it up with lithium grease as a get-you-home spare to take to Lelystad.

There were a few more paintings in the Oslo National Gallery that caught my eye but didn’t get round to mentioning….

Vilhelm Hammershoi’s, ‘The Coin Collector’; always a bonus to see a Hammershoi and, this charming scene, ‘Braiding Her Hair’, by Christian Krohg.

Picasso was well represented and it was interesting to see three of his works, spanning nearly 25 years, altogether and on one wall. The first, ‘Man and Woman in a Café’, 1903 (towards the end of his ‘Blue Period’)…..

… ‘Guitar and Glass’, 1911….

…and ‘Still Life’, 1927.

Although not a favourite of mine, Picasso was certainly a highly skilled colourist. When I worked in Florida, I occasionally had a game of poker with a chap who was valet to either Mrs Proctor or Mrs Gamble – I can’t remember which but, in his grace and favour flat in Palm Beach, just along from ‘The Banana Boat’ – a bar we’d patronise before Martin would relieve me of what little money I had – was an early Picasso charcoal sketch of a young girl. It was the first time I’d ever seen a work of art by a household name in a private residence. I’ve never forgotten it….

…unlike this entirely forgettable nonsense I tripped over in the gallery; must have seemed a good idea at the time.