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.

If I Remember Correctly….

…. the likes of Keating and Baltracchi tell us that to convince our audience that what we’re presenting is authentic, provenance or a back-story is the starting point.

Copying paintings taught me that there was no art without effort. Careful planning, attention to detail and rejection of the slipshod or inaccurate were the keys to, maybe, moderate success. The drama of a fire in a friend’s thatched house was made newsworthy by a quick-witted passer-by, seen running from the conflagration carrying aloft a (my) Cézanne – the start of a credible back-story? – I’m not sure the Hammershoi (the one I would have saved) was so lucky.

But for me, a great deal more interesting and entertaining is the art of the pastiche. The Hillman Special is just that; something which it’s not, though it fits neatly into the casual observer’s idea of things. Randy Regier, an American artist and one time curator of The Museum of the Other American Dream (MOAD) has refined this art form to a point where pastiche and reality are all but indistinguishable.

Regier’s 2007 MFA thesis looked at the way in which social history had been recorded since the Industrial Revolution with the unwitting assistance of the humble toy. He (and other commentators) had been astute in recognising that the development of Western social structures, complete with expectations and prejudices, had been paralleled in the evolution of children’s toys.

What Regier did then (and continues to do) was to embark on an exercise that playfully subverted our memories by presenting us with ‘phantom’ toys (of the period but eluding the memory) simultaneously drawing our attention to subtexts which we, as children, wouldn’t necessarily have noticed at the time, or even since.

Accompanied by convincing back-stories, almost impeccable provenance and faux period packaging to boot, of course, we think we can kind of remember if not the actual toy, then certainly the genre. This subversion (it’s carefully engineered to leave a convincing 1% of doubt) and our response to it, demonstrates to us that history is not unalterable and, more importantly, that the facts of history may not be the truth.

I first came across Regier’s work on a website that I recommend to everyone with an interest in cars, motorcycles, aircraft, boats and everything in between – silodrome.com. The site showcased this unusual pulse-jet propelled scooter produced in the cloak-and-dagger days of the Cold War. That this scooter, its supporting documentation, photographic evidence of a production run and its subsequent deployment in the field had been over-looked or, more persuasively, suppressed, ladled gravitas in buckets on Regier’s confection.

Pre-dating the current ‘barn find’ obsession, the central theme in Regier’s thesis was supported by the story of an almost complete 1920’s, home-built racing car hidden in the basement of an old bakery in Portland, Maine. Unusually, this car was built by a woman, Anna Isaak, whose story started in just post-revolution Russia. She emigrated to the USA, worked as a welder on the Liberty ship programme and died decades later, leaving behind only a suitcase containing a few clues to her racing ambitions and personal history. Regier’s carefully convoluted research culminates in the discovery and recovery of the car.

There’s a line in Frankenheimer’s ‘Ronin’, spoken by Robert De Niro: ‘If there’s doubt, there is no doubt’.

It’s worth remembering.

Sunday Outing.

On my last trip back from Norway, we hit wake turbulence (the disturbed air an aircraft leaves behind it) but hit it at right angles to the vortex. The aircraft jolted violently and it certainly got everyone’s attention. On our way home from Sweden, I was playing racing cars on my tablet when I felt a vibration – almost like the onset of control flutter. The next thing, we started to roll and we didn’t stop at the normal 30° limit. I reckon we touched 60°. Not nice. We must have entered the wake at an oblique angle – you can imagine how powerful the vortex is if a 60 tonne aircraft is thrown around like a toy. And you’ve got to go with it until you’re out the other side. Attempting to correct inside the vortex will over-stress the airframe and recovering from the unusual attitude once you’re through is also a delicate business.

I couldn’t help noticing that someone was upset with Border Control – the London airports are appallingly served by the immigration services. Half the booths for the non-EU passport holders are unmanned and the electronic gates are not particularly user-friendly as they rely on the passport holder following a set of not particularly clear instructions. I understand there’s a move towards chip implants in Sweden – an interesting idea.

Breakfast at the Cretingham Golf Club with Leon and The Ambassador’s Daughter, was followed by a visit to Helmingham Hall where the Jowett Jumble Sale was enjoying its first day out. It looked splendid and generated a great deal of interest. Learned Counsel was pleased that so many people remembered them and, ‘haven’t seen one of those for years’ was an oft-repeated phrase. He’s now got to get on with the racing Jupiter (which means I’ve got to get on with the dashboard).

Amongst the 900 or so vehicles in attendance, this Dürkopp Diana was a favourite.

There’s only so much time you can spend at a car show, especially in 30° heat, so next stop was the seaside. Orford is a pretty village on the Suffolk coast with (according to the 2011 Census) a population of 713. With a one-bedroom terraced cottage costing over £300,000, the next Census will be interesting.

I spotted an engine in this abandoned boat. I couldn’t get near it because estuary mud is the worst. It sticks to you like, well, mud, and it can be very smelly. Continuing along the river path and then a cut back across the marshes…

.. where this family of swans (parents and 6 cygnets) were busy cleaning themselves after a dip in the grim looking water of the dyke.

It was a 100 mile round trip and I’m pleased to report that the brakes are bedding in very nicely and she hasn’t lost a drop of water in the last 300 miles. A blowing exhaust gasket is the only sign of trouble and happily, it’s the one between the manifold and the downpipe. I was going to take the downpipe off anyway to fit the lambda sensor flange.

I’ll get that out of the way next Sunday.