Friday 18 December 2009

The Challenge of Snow

Snow wrapped Milton in the morning meant cancelling meetings (negative) and using the opportunity for some quick photography (positive!).
I reined in my desire to photograph absolutely everything white and sought a different perspective to the impact of the weather on our village of Milton.
Fortunately, this turned out to be people I met on my walk; the friendly neighbour who was clearing the path to the house of an elderly resident; Two women delivering bales of hay to feed their horses; The father and the delighted children he was towing on a sleigh and the fellow photographers met going to and from the river and country park.
The novel weather seemed to bring out the best in people, taking time to do unusual tasks and enjoy the change, and this is reflected in the photos.
Technically, snow is challenging, because of the extreme brightness, the automatic settings on the camera tend to underexpose.Thus with a digital camera, set to overexpose by one or two stops. I found some useful advice at The Luminous Landscape and Theschoolofphotography.
Different photographers also see different things. I met Philip Mynott, a commercial photographer, on my walk and he had a different set of perspectives of the same morning - see his blog. I also look forward to seeing the pictures from the other members of the Milton Photographic Club as they are posted.
So,if its still snowy where you are - take up your camera and have a play - then let me know what your perspective was.

Friday 11 December 2009

A walk through London with Christmas Markets and a bit of culture

I enjoyed an early morning meeting with Christian Berner and colleagues from Revacom in London. Not only was it an informative and enjoyable event, it also gave me an opportunity to go on a meandering perambulation through the capital afterwards. Part more business - looking at Christmas Markets for another client - and part pleasure by visiting the Anish Kapoor exhibition and the Rosetta Stone.
The route started by exiting the tube at Mansion House as Blackfriars Station by our meeting place in the Crown Plaza was closed. The walk down Victoria Street afforded glimpses of St Pauls in the rush hour sunlight. After the meeting, it was across Blackfriars Bridge to the South Bank, walking towards the London Eye.
The Cologne Christmas Market spread in a ribbon on either side of Hungerford Bridge. The little chalets were frequented by a smattering of visitors at around midday, with the Eye rotating majestically in the background.
I took the Jubilee Footbridge to cross over the Thames again and via Northumberland Avenue, found myself negotiating a Climate protestors village in Trafalgar Square before reaching Picadilly Circus in the throes of being a building site.
I found the Royal Academy, and the queue, off Picadilly. A half hour wait and I was in the Anish Kapoor exhibition that was ending this week. “Shooting in the Corner” was of brief interest but “Yellow” was surprising for the vertigo it induced when standing very close. Leaving the exhibition, I ate an excellent salad lunch in the Burlington house restaurant, before setting off again.
A long walk down Picadilly brought me to Hyde Park where the “Winter Wonderland” gateway incongruously stood. This Christmas market was large, and by 3pm, getting very busy. At one end were the many stalls, some constructs very large, whilst at the far end, the brash funfair lured in the thrill seekers.
The winter light was fading as walked to a deserted Speakers Corner and Marble Arch to enter the bright lights of the shopping parade that is Oxford Street. A portion of prime construction land had been fenced off and enclosed a smaller Christmas Market adorned by a German Christmas Pyramid that sold Bratwurst – at £3 a go, I gave the sausages a miss.
The pre rush hour crush had started as I walked the 2km along the illuminated Oxford Street to reach the British Museum off Great Russell Street. At 5pm, there was just time to pop in to see the Rosetta Stone, which gave the breakthrough in the translation of Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Another kilometer and I gratefully boarded the Piccadilly line at Holborn to start my way home again after a good 10km tour!

Monday 7 December 2009

Lincoln Christmas Market

Professional and personal interest led to a visit to the 2009 Lincoln Christmas Market, one of the largest in the UK and Europe with over 130000 visitors expected over the four days it ws open.

Timing and certain masochism meant we went by car on one of the busiest days, Saturday. Fortunately, arriving by 10am at the P&R made getting into lincoln relatively painless.

Three things really stood out about the market:
  1. The mass of visitors was so great as to warrant a one way circuit around the stalls and the crush almost hindered stopping for a purchase at peak times.
  2. Whilst a significant proportion of stalls went with the festive theme in terms of content and dressing up, many did not. The uniformity of the canvas stalls also diminished the expectations of a Christmas market people may have gained, for example in Germany.
  3. Go a few hundred yards from the market route and the masses dropped off considerably - making it worth taking refreshments some distance from the market. We enjoyed an afternoon tea with carol singing in St Peter in Eastgate Church.
The location made the venue, with the Cathedral and the castle providing very scenic backdrop - shame the castle walls were not open for access as they would have provided a fantastic view!

Probably the most enjoyable part of the visit to Lincoln for me was actually the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, who were following a Victorian Christmas theme and had lots of interesting exhibits manned by actors in Victorian garb. The Victorian Sweet shop was doing a roaring trade in sugared mice and I spent an informative time with the printer talking about the wonderful man-powered printing machine he was operating.

Trying to return to the P&R stop in town around 5pm, we hit an enourmous queue, at one point 5000 people long, I was told by an official. We delayed our departure till 9pm by having a meal in town - by then the queues were gone.

Photographically, it was a difficult event as you were carried along and buffeted by a sea of people. I used a small portable camera, rather than the SLR. However, the positive Christmas spirit meant that many of the people in costume were happy to be photographed and provided a festive view.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Designing the Delivery Management Website

Richard Wishart of Delivery Management is a good friend and networking colleague, with whom I've collaborated over the years.

As part of his continued interest in using online collaborative tools, Richard moved his company website to a Windows Office Life based server. He then gave me the challenge to utilise the site design facilities there and establish a basic framework that he could follow and use to grow his site.

The initial constraint was to use one of the existing wireframe templates. The colour scheme was suggested by the company logo. Since Richard and his company are forward looking and technology driven, the final top banner was the result of a desire to hint at wireless connectivity, via a broadcasting arial, and forward movement by releasing the logo's eagle to fly on.

The intrepid exploring eagle then became the leitfaden through the main images for the five different areas. Minor details such as curved corners reflecting current visual trends.

The site is a dramatic improvement over the initial basic functionality, with greater regularity and obvious underlying structure that the eye subconsciously detects. Most importantly, Richard appears to be happy with it, such that he has been confident enough to start populating it with content.

As a designer, I know there are always further improvements or alternatives! That said, the Windows Office Live platform provides a cost effective way for many to design a competent functional business site.

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Helping Granny - A tale of our time

I've been intrigued by the restrictions of twitter and also about the impact of social media on family life. Tonight, an idea thats been germinating for a while came to fruition in the form of a short story in tweets via The Twitter messages or "tweets" are reproduced below, with the identifier #grancare - an easy way for Twitterers to follow a thread amongst the flood of messages.

I want to try a short story, in tweet chapters so to speak. If an illustrator want to collaborate for a future repeat, great! #grancare

Helping Granny, a tale of our time #grancare

Granny lived alone and had coped quite well. Like anyone, sometimes she was sweet, sometimes she laughed, sometimes she spat fire! #grancare

One day, her grandson Errol came to visit. They drank tea, ate lots of cake and Errol listened enraptured to Granny reminiscing. #grancare

In a quiet moment, Granny confided to Errol "Things are such an effort nowadays - the sales calls on the phone, the junkmail!" #grancare

I find it hard to remember which pills to take and when and I think Ive read the newspaper twice today!" she added chuckling #grancare

"Most of all, it's very quiet at times, with families too busy with their own lives to call or far away to visit" Granny sighed. #grancare

Errol drove home from his visit to Granny very thoughtful about her words. "What can I do?" #grancare

That evening, Errol sat in the lounge with his laptop in front of the Telly, with his cup of hot chocolate and supply of biscuits. #grancare

He logged into facebook and read the many entries by family and friends. Suddenly he began to write a new post. #grancare

"Dear all" wrote Errol "wouldn't it be great if we all phoned Granny a bit more often and visited more regularly?" #grancare

The next day, Errol innocently logged into facebook and received an unexpected surprise! #grancare

Errol had forgotten that Auntie Sandra was the black sheep of the family and only spoke to Uncle Eric. #grancare

The whole Sanderson family held the Hendersons in contempt ever since the unfortunate incident of the aspic at Ronnie's funeral. #grancare

Emily was on an extended research project in Borneo and Errol's brother was preoccupied with his sextuplets starting school. #grancare

"I'm tied to a tree fighting loggers" came short shrift from Emily "and my solar powered mobile is breaking down!" #grancare

"Our stretched family limousine can't make the hairpin bends or climb the hills near Granny's" wailed Errol' brother. #grancare

The Sandersons were unanimous in blaming the Hendersons and conversely the Hendersons said they'd done more than their fair share! #grancare

Uncle Eric told him to sod off! Only Auntie Sandra responded positively, (if Errol understood her text in nuspeak correctly). #grancare

Somewhat shaken and deflated, Errol swapped the hot choc for a full bottle of finest malt and was unconscious for the weekend. #grancare

The next week, he resolved to call Granny - but the line was engaged. Using callback, Granny finally got in touch. #grancare

"I don't know what's got into everybody!!!" she raged, "I haven't had a moment's peace from the phone!" #grancare

Then she added more mollified "Your brothers visiting next week! He's hired a bendy bus. And Eric's coming for lunch next week!" #grancare

"You could visit more often" Granny said pointedly. "But I visited last week" Errol sighed. "Oh yes! - But you're always welcome!" #grancare

An hour later, Errol rang off and sat down to log onto facebook. "No", he suddenly decided happily, "I'll twitter today!" #grancare

Friday 18 September 2009

A Cambridge Contribution on Microscopes, Explorers, Medical Pioneers and Inventors on the Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square was unoccupied since its completion in 1841, when money for a planned equestrian statue failed to materialise - until the Mayor of London and various arts groups initiated a series of exhibitions upon it. One & Other is the current event, assisted by Sky Arts, a brainchild of Anthony Gormley, of "Angel of the North" fame. See him talk about his vision here

Antony Gormley on the Fourth Plinth from One & Other on Vimeo.

For 100 days since the middle of July, members of the public have been occupying the plinth for 1 hour each, 24h a day, come rain or shine. They are chosen by a draw from those who had applied to be part of the project. What you do on the plinth is entirely up to you, as long as it is legal. The project will provide not just a piece of art but also a social record of our society in 2009.

With around 30000 applying for 2400 places, I thought it was worth joining. The August and September draws came and I was unsuccessful. Resigned, I was therefore surprised to have a call a couple of hours after the September draw results asking
"We have a slot free on the Plinth. It's at 2am on 16th Sept are you interested?"
"YES!!!" was my resounding exhilarated reply!

I set off at nine pm to catch the train to London, where a narrow band of rain had been inundating the Plinth with nearly an inch of rain over the past hours. I arrived at Trafalgar Square with rain still bucketing down at 11pm. Fortunately, there was a warm welcome and a cup of tea in the temporary two storey One&Other building on the square from which the event was run, within sight of the Plinth.

There was a camaraderie in that cabin amongst the Plinthers who had just completed, and those who were to go up in the next couple of hours. Stories and experiences, ambitions and fears, Distances travelled and places to go all discussed. Plinthers would go out to view the current incumbents and lend support in a constant ebb and flow. There was tight security, but very sensitively handled. Safety was paramount too. We were all also interviewed and photographed individually as part of research by the Wellcome Trust as well as to provide material for the forthcoming record as a book of the event.

I was extremely lucky! The rain stopped just before I got onto the cherry picker, Stuart of security walking ahead of us as we slowly drove to the plinth, only missing the red flag that men walking in front of early automobiles used to have. I turned to One & Other Jamy who was escorting me and found out that his hobby was Birding with a pleasure at having recorded some Ospreys earlier this year. The Cherry picker rose well above the plinth and then delicately lowered to the edge of the plinth where Mike from Wales had been dancing for the full hour, ready to come off on a physical and emotional high.

And then I was alone on the 1.5m x 4m plinth, 8m above the ground with spotlights and cameras trained on me and a group of friendly hecklers below. (Video of event with times of highlights in text below video available here).

The main thread of my stay was people's hobbies, demonstrated by mine, microscopy. The link to the plinth was the Victorian connection to the birth of amateur microscopy and its flourishing in the Victorian age. I was able to include my favourite 17th Century scientist Robert Hooke, of the Royal Society, who's excitement initiated real interest in microscopy with his book Micrographia; Darwin, who used a simple microscope on the Beagle and later at home, for example on his studies on the goose barnacle; John McArthur, early 20th Century medical researcher in Malaria who settled in a nearby village in Milton, Landbeach, and who invented the McArthur portable microscope used by the Trans Antarctic Expedition headed by explorer Vivian Fuchs, later Sir Vivian Fuchs, and head of the British Antarctic Survey, now based in Cambridge. John also developed the 1972 prize winning McArthur Microscope in plastic for the Open University, who used nearly 8000 of these for students studying biology in their homes for over 25 years.

I'd brought my Watson Kima microscope along, dating from 1957, just one year after I was born (and the year that the Trans Antarctic Expedition successfully completed its journey after 99 days), to look at a few prepared slides, one of Black Oak by Ernie Ives, a Foraminiferan mount by Brian Darnton and a Head louse prepared by myself. The spotlights onto the plinth provided sufficient light and an additional bond of the activity to the plinth to let me view and photograph the samples.

There had been queries about bringing glass slides onto the Plinth for safety reasons (glass was excluded). however, I conducted a full risk assessment - the first submitted by a Plinther! And special permission was granted in advance. (Copy of Risk Assessment here)

The highlight for me was the sample that I had plundered from the fountain in Trafalgar Square (with permission!). The small amount of green sediment captured in a plastic Petri dish not only contained algae, but a free living nematode! A particular delight as I'd worked on parasitic nematodes in the past.

The hobby of microscopy was brought bang up to date by using a digital camera to capture images and then to upload them using a dongle on my laptop to a Picasa album for all to see (see the album at , for time reasons, I did the upload back in the One & Other shelter).

This would all have been a little remote for the viewer at times as they could not see the samples and photos there and then. I was therefore extremely pleased that, thanks to the generosity of Peter Burt and Jamy Limited, I had a brilliant banner with large photos that I could demonstrate to both the small audience at the base of the plinth and the cameras.

All that remained at the end was to round off with a summary and to pack up. The last few minutes were used to photograph the steel Plinth surface which, after 60 days or more, was showing interesting surface effects (see slide show at top).

Emotionally, I came off on a high that stayed with me for several days. I spent some time back in the One & Other shed uploading pictures. Then, because there was no tube running and no trains to Cambridge till early morning, I set off at around 4am to wander the streets of London with the camera, finally progressing the Victoria Embankment from the Houses of Parliament in the dark to St Paul's at dawn.

Arriving back in Milton, I collapsed in bed and finally slept, with a deep sense of satisfaction at taking part as a small facet in this snapshot of people in Britain in 2009.

I would like to express my special thanks to all those who commented and supported me on my Plinther's Chris_T_1 One&Other page.

Friday 4 September 2009

Hidden art and desecrated graves in Cambridge

It was a big mistake getting off at Elizabeth Way bridge with a camera last Saturday, as my original intention was just to visit the bank and Waterstones. Instead, I stood captivated by the murals in the Underpass and decided to see what other interesting Art I could find by meandering through the backstreets of Cambridge..
My first find was the Cricketer's Arms in Melbourne Place. Windows on the first floor sported three pictures of first, a Cambridge United footballer, a cricketer and an Irish Rugby player. Chatting to the publican Martin Hyde, who was delighted in the interest, I discovered the following.
The pictures had been designed by the pupils of nearby Parkside school as part of a competition set up by Martin to convert the ugly blacked out windows into something a lot more interesting. A teacher then converted the ideas into scaled up paintings in emulsion.
On my way to Mill Road to see Martin's other pub, the Earl of Beaconsfield and Disraeli painted as a leprechaun, I discovered Mill Road Cemetery.
With graves predominantly from the 1880s to early 1900's, it was a peaceful picture of genteel neglect in the glorious sunshine of the day. A number of the monuments were broken and there was evidence of vandals desecrating tombs and gravestones both from the distant past and extremely recently. Poignant WWI memorials were scatted with the bodies of the young who died, including one in 1918 close to the end of the war and another at Paschendale. The delightful find was the memorial to John Reynolds, who ran the telegraph coach from London to Cambridge back in the 19th century.
Just before Kingston Street, I asked two ladies if they were aware of any interesting art or signage nearby. None they could remember, and yet within 50 yards I found the wonderfully decorated 80 Kingston Street. Chatting to Claire, who just happened to be at a window, i discovered that this was the home of the women's Paradise Housing Cooperative, colloquially know as housing “The Birds of Paradise”.
Taking time and looking around, I found the leprechaun, Mill Road bridge mural and many other artwork and signs, where a little imagination had created a small but positive impression on their environment in Cambridge.
Click on the slideshow to be taken to the Picasa album with captions to the pictures.
(Oh yes, and despite wandering around for 4 and a half hours, I did get to Waterstones and the bank too.)

How do others see your company?

Meeting with a group of German IT companies in Potsdam in preparation for the marketing assistance programme to the UK, I was again struck by the diversity and ingenuity of their ideas. As part of the afternoon they were supposed to fill in company information forms, ostensibly to assist with our market researchers. Like forms everywhere, my fear was that they would inexplicably lack the company's vibrant USPs, so essential for our market researchers to understand if they were to successfully find interested UK contacts. Having been up since 4 in the morning that same day, the silence of studious form filling was also likely to be highly soporific!
So we tried something different! Pairing up, one of the pairs would describe their company, its goals and ambitions, which the other partner would then interpret and use to fill in the form. The roles were then reversed. At the end, each company gave a presentation. In fact, we've We even had one company brave enough to give the presentation of their partners in English to general applause!
The background hubub and engagement was stimulating, the presentations informative. The companies gained useful insights and practice in honing their pitch in a safe environment. Even better, there was also a bit of networking afterwards! An application for a XING group has been initiated.
My suggestion is therfore to use a future networking meeting to try this with a trusted partner.
1. Describe your company, ethos and offers briefly
2. then see what your partner understood and reflects back to you
3. Of course, you can return the favour!

The slideshow is of Potsdam and the museums in Berlin, two cities in constant change, which may also reflect the positive forward looking attitudes of the companies from this region.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Random impressions of Cambridge people

"Tragic life stories" was the sombre heading of one book selection in WH Smiths on Saturday 15th August. However, this was totally counterbalanced by:

The blind spectator joyfully improvising Jazz songs with the delighted black guitarist street player near the market square.

Iron, the handyman, resting on a bench by the river intently watching a duck being plagued by a pike.

The way people stopped on the bridge near the Green Dragon pub in Chesterton to gaze at the water and boats.

Hanging baskets bursting with flowers outside the Green Dragon.

The friendly welcome and brilliant conversation with Dino and his brother at Dino's Hair Salon in Chesterton, when I entered for a hair cut at the spur of the moment, despite it being nearly closing time on a long Satruday afternoon.

Sunday 9 August 2009

An Exceptional Service

Five nights at The Haven, run by Michael and Lorna Marsh, revealed why they had been accorded the only AA Four Star rating for a B&B in Truro. It was the fantastic personal service that made one feel home from home, instead of just as paying customers in lodgings.

Friendly and accommodating when needed, they were unobtrusive and left you to your own devices when you you were OK on your own.

The single long breakfast table was a case in point. Over our stay, guests naturally introduced each other and, more often than not, had inclusive conversations. Mohammed Afasi a General Manager from Egypt on training, Maureen the concert goer, Dorothea and Guenther touring the Southwest and Dave on Bang & Olafson business were some of the lives that touched one another.

Having run other businesses in the region for many years, Michael and Lorna's exceptional skills have been honed to a very high level.

We were lucky to visit them early in their first year of business and achieve a booking at short notice. As their well earned reputation spreads, you are advised to book well in advance in future.

Perranporth beach and the coralling of swimmers.

At low tide, when we arrived, Perranporth had a fantastic sandy beach with picturesque cliffs.

The hordes arrived with their windbreaks and deck chairs, towels and kites and filled the space immediately below the town. They rapidly gave way to the large empty sandy beach. There was one exception – a ribbon of swimmers and surfers that stretched from won to shore until they were bunched together at the water's edge in a 50m wide stretch between flags.

A watchful Lifeguard Landrover/jeep would occasionally dash out to one side with a loud wailing siren that echoed across the whole beach and blast out a warning about the danger of riptides on either side of the safe zones.The noise pollution grated on the ear, even though the riptides were apparent when viewing the sea from the cliffs.

We walked along the white mineral sand until the next lifeguarded section with its flags and occasional sirens at Perran Sands, viewing the eroded cliffs with barnacles and mussels clinging to their bases.

We returned along the cliff path with the occasional para glider hovering above us. Arriving back in Truro at 4:30h, we splashed out on our last luxurious Cornish Cream Tea in the Victorian Tearooms, situated in the old Coinage Hall, with friendly staff and serene surroundings.

Saturday 8 August 2009

A negative bus journey and the kindness of strangers.(Cornwall by public transport V).

A sorry journey

Our last day was a trip to the lovely beach at Perranporth and the journey there was an example of the worst service that we had experienced in our whole holiday.

It began with attempting to buy our ticket on the No 403 Summercourt Travel bus from Truro, Victoria Square, at 10:45h on Friday 7th August. The return fare was £5.60 for 2. When I tried to pay with a £10 note I received the curt reply “no Change, only exact fare.” No further explanation, no apologies for inconvenience.

So we scrimped our remaining change together – and fortunately made the fare and boarded.
One stop on, another passenger with no change received the same curt, unsympathetic treatment. Since he had no change – he had to miss the bus, to his vented frustration and the driver's rude verbal riposte. A later passenger also nearly had to get off – were it not for the kindness of a stranger (see below).

At another stop a lady and her daughter boarded and asked about the service – The drivers comment - which had also been given to other alighting passengers - was “we don't travel very often” . So the lady and her daughter got off again to wait for the next bus. Note that “not very often” was actually an hourly service until early evening around 5pm.

Three potential customers were lost on that journey and others alienated.

Now, to be fair, we all have off days and this might have been an exceptionally bad one for the driver. However, the whole travel experience left such a bad taste in our mouths, that we resolved to make the return journey with the Greyhound 587 in the afternoon, despite needing to buy another ticket.

So what have been done differently? An apology and an explanation – plus an indication of alternatives; a more accurate explanation of the journey times, these small things would have made a big difference in the customers perception. The traveller might need the bus, but the bus also needs the passengers.

The kindness of strangers

Two youths, strangers to each other, boarded the bus. The first, a young woman, again did not have the right change when getting on and was in danger of having to get off. The following youth seeing her predicament, generously and unselfconsciously bought her a ticket - unconditionally (i.e. without trying a follow on chat up!). This was followed by her initially reluctant but then gracious acceptance.

Friday 7 August 2009

Truro to St Mawes by boat - giant ships to Victorian stained glass (Cornwall by Public Transport IV)

Thursday, we tried out the Enterprise Ferry to St Mawes as a mode of public transport. The river at Truro is tidal. As it was low tide and there was not enough water to board a ferry, we were bussed (unusually by Taxi) to Malpas and boarded there.

The trip to St Mawes was particularly interesting as the river was sufficiently deep further downstream with a depth of at least 70 feet (20meters), to allow sea going ships to moor there, either whilst mothballed or awaiting new cargo. Examples were container ships and two major car transporters – enormous vessels!

Britain's first Mussel farm was also on the river and at Trelissig, there was the chain driven car ferry providing a convenient river crossing.

St Mawes is an idyllic, pittoresque town, with a small castle, that survives on tourism. The small church of St Mawes was built in its present form in 1882 and has beautiful stained glass windows that are shown in detail in the slideshow see link above).

We did travel across to Falmouth afterwards, using another ferry company but included in our return ticket. We were not impressed and pitied the cruise ship passengers disembarking there from the Aida.

However, we did find a haven for a cup of tea and an excellent courgette and lime cake. The Vegetarian Cafe “Pea Souk” is owned, managed, cooked and baked for by “Cordon Vert Trained and Qualified” Nicola Willis. Once lured out of her shell, it transpired that she came from Cambridge originally!

The return trip to Truro by Enterprise ferry took us right to the town on the high tide, arriving in a gentle evening light.

During the day, our B&B hosts at the Haven had laid the foundation for their future greenhouse in cement – a full day's work! Lorna, often seen gardening in the evenings, turns out to be a champion cement mixer & preparer, based on the years of past experience in professional home improvement.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Visit to the Eden Project (Cornwall using public transport III)

Todays cooked breakfast on request was scrambled egg with mushroom. It tasted good but created culinary dissatisfaction in The Haven's Proprietor/Chef, Michael, due to the slight discolouring of the scrambled eggs! His mind was feverishly hatching alternative strategies for tomorrow.

A brisk walk to the Railway station and we were able to by a return ticket to the Eden Project, including bus from station in St Austell to the Eden Project and entry. The train left Truro at 10:19h and the connections were seamless on the way out.

The Eden Project is situated in a former quarry and is sufficiently large to accommodate thousands of visitors. Most people are familiar with the images of the geodesic domes of the Mediterranean and the tropical habitats. We discovered that a far greater area is taken up by the external “Biome” with diverse, interesting, informative and above all colourful plants as you will see from the slideshow.

We also enjoyed the sculptures and artwork that was scattered amongst the plants, from the giant bee and the WEEE Man to the totem pole collection in the tropical Biome. In the latter, the almost unbearable heat was alleviated by a stop in a “cooling room” and by standing at the exit where a substantial breeze gave welcome relief.

The return journey included a half hour wait for the train – and that slightly self righteous feeling that, because we had traveled by public transport, we had followed some of the environmental principles that are fundamental to the Eden Project.

A last tip if you need to eat in Truro – try “The French Bistro” on Bridge Street. I had a fantastic Walnut, apple and Roquefort salad and enjoyed a substantial proportion of Jane's Toulouse sausage and pepper casserole. The Chef prepares the food to a very high standard! Look out for their forthcoming blog at

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Truro Cathedral and Victoria Gardens (Cornwall by public transport II)

The one temptation when not having to make your own breakfast is – to have a full cooked English Breakfast. And I succumbed – Michael Walsh at the Haven providing the excellent meal.
Suitably fortified, it was out into the drizzle and into the safety of Truro Cathedral. This cathedral was the first new one to be built in the UK since Salisbury in the 13th century. Truro's construction began at the end of the 19th Century when Cornwall finally enthroned its first own bishop.

The challenge of low light photography in the building kept us entertained till lunchtime – the italianate tiling is worth looking out for, the multilevel aisles unusual and the windows form the largest collection of Victorian stained glass in Britain!

The drizzle still came in waves as we lunched in the aptly named "Lunch". Food was accompanied by a stimulating discussion with a young Yorkshire couple she was an English teacher, he a Physics one. Our topics ranged from hi-tech swimwear, via old English battle sagas and fell running, to the Philip K Dick's novel "Do androids dream of electric sheep".

The centre sights soon exhausted, we meandered up to the outskirts of town where we found well kept allotments and the other highlight of the day, Victoria Gardens - as you can see from the slideshow.

Dinner was at Il Gatto Nero - tasty pizza's, once the service managed to get around to us.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Cornwall by Public Transport I

Last minute e-mails and post done, we set off on foot to the bus stop in Milton, for a holiday in Cornwall. We would try to use public transport.

First, onto the Citi 2 for remarkably fast run into Cambridge at 12:15 and a thank you to the cheery driver. The Citi 1 arrived for the next leg, but when the massive queue rushed to board, an experienced Jane spotted the empty Citi 3 behind it which sped us to the station.

With time on hand before the 13:15 to London Kings Cross, M&S was raided for sandwiches and drinks. The non-stop London run was familiar and passed pleasantly in the sunshine till Ally Pally and the Emirates Stadium heralded an imminent arrival in London.

The Underground at King's Cross seems to perpetually shift whenever I visit! We jumped onto a recently arrived Circle line train to head for Paddington, only to get off at Edgeware road where it terminated, one tantalising stop before Paddington itself.

The 15:06 sleek Intercity 225 of eight coaches was packed – we had not been able to get an earlier train because they had all been booked by last Saturday. Fortunately we not only had reserved seats, we were able to find and claim them, others were not so lucky. it's departure was delayed by 10 minutes as the driver was himself delayed from a previous train.

And so we rode into the increasingly gray skies. Despite passengers gushing off at stations on the way, their numbers were constantly replenished. Because of the train being overfull the carriage ends were blocked with the unfortunate third class placings - standing room with loads of luggage for the price of a full ticket. A side effect was to activate the pressure pads controlling the doors, which banged open and shut in repetitive and irritating beat.

The sea! Great excitement as we left Exeter and the sea lapped right up to the embankment, with the occasional spray from the choppy waters crashing against the curved walls of the sea defences. A flock of older ladies settled temporarily in neighbouring seats, twittering amongst themselves and to anyone who would listen, before departing at Newton Abbot.

The clouds descended further and by Liskeard, our delay had increased to 25 minutes as we were held up my slower trains ahead of us. We were relieved to finally arrive at Truro at 20:25 and walked to our B&B, The Haven.

And a welcome haven it was! with Michael & Lorna Marsh giving us a warm reception, rustling up some scrambled eggs and beans on toast and tea to replenish our energy. The Haven is situated in Truro Vean Terrace and the towers of the Cathedral could be seen nearby from the room's window.

We had landed at last.

Thursday 23 July 2009

A miscellany of facts from Hereford

Worried about relatives getting more forgetful about when to take the burgeoning stack of pills they have to take? Local Gps liaise with client's pharmacies to provide prescriptions that can then be packed into clearly labeled “Dose-it” packs. These can even be subdivided into morning, midday, afternoon an night doses.

Jothi means “light” or “Lamp” - a lovely name for a cheerful lady shop assistant.

Bagless vacuum cleaners may not need bags, however, the do often contain filters that need to be washed and left to dry for 24h when the dust drum is emptied.

The direct translation of the German word for vacuum cleaner “Staubsauger” is - “Dust Sucker!”.

Wargrave House Surgery in Hereford is in a beautiful grade II listed building and garden. According to the receptionist, originally the house was bought by Charles II for his long time mistress, Nell Gwyn, a 17th century actress who was also renowned for her wit and described as “Pretty, Witty Nell”. The Wikipedia article at gives an informative and entertaining account of her known history,

Monday 6 July 2009

Great first weekend of my Cambridge Open Studio

Doors open, signs up, coordinated with Alison Hullyer just down road with her own studio at 11am on Saturday 4th July.

My first visitor (and buyer!) was Ann Hales-Tooke, for whom I'm publishing her newest book, The Lost Priory. She arrived in the morning sunshine in a lovely dress and summery hat. An artist herself, Ann gave exhibiting a miss this year.

Other visiting artists included Hiroshi Shimura, who had done most of the photos for the 800th year celebrations for Cambridge University, whos work gives a unique insight as a Japanese photographer in Cambridge; Stained glass artist Sarah Hunt who loved the luminous colours of the human hair in polarised light; Kathryn Shaw and photographer Soo Martin, with whom I exchanged photo and printing tips!

The added delight were the families with children who came, excitedly looked at butterflies and seeds under the microscope or earnestly worked on the quiz.

My quiz was a surprise hit. I'd numbered the pictures on the walls and provided descriptions or names of the pictures on the quiz sheet; the idea was to try and match the two. Daniel (aged 9 going on to 576 as he reliably informed me as his alter ego second ghost Captain Blighte) held the record at 28 out of 29 correct answers till beaten by Daisy late on Sunday afternoon.

People spent a lot of time looking and thinking about the pictures if they did the quiz, which was great as it gave rise to questions and conversation. I'm not sure if it might have detracted people from buying. The best sellers were the Postcards printed through

I was particularly delighted when Mervyn Foster, a friend through HBN, Complementary Therapist and Raconteur, made the effort to drop by and also tweet on his visit!

Talking of tweeting, I kept a steady stream of tweets going linked to #ChrisCOS on both days.
The only quiet section really was a couple of hours during the mens Wimbledon Final - Jane did regularly bring out and update a board with the scores for visitors during the game.

Today, I'm still emotionally exhausted from a great couple of days and will gather my strength for the next weekend.

You are thoroughly welcome to drop by next weekend, I'd love to see you! the exhibition is at 3 Hall End, Milton, Cambridgeshire, CB24 6AQ and well signposted from the north end of the village. Remember there are also 200 other artists exhibiting in July as part of Cambridge Open Studios.

Saturday 4 July 2009

Cambridge Open Studios diary - Friday 03rd July

Had got pretty stressed out yesterday with picture hanging and also continuing saga of BT line awaiting repairs (now a fortnight without landline!). So took the middle of day off to go to Mervyn's seminar on Stress, cancer and Complementary therapies. Certainly relaxed me.
Continued completing the little things - like a quiz and lables. Finished at 4 in the moring after a dash to Tesco for printing paper as I'd run out.

Cambridge Open Studios diary - Thu 2nd July

Today was a day of measuring and hanging pictures! I'd planned the layout in PowerPoint, with measurements in proportion. Transferring the idea to the actual walls worked well, though it was time consuming, with the las pictures going up at 7 in the evening.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Cambridge Open Studios Countdown Diary Wed 1st July

Absolutely exhausted after a productive day getting the garage sorted out as a studio with the excellent help of Alex and Louise. We first had to mount 10 boards to the walls to act as hanging surfaces, the routine developed as follows.

Alex "The Rock" would hold the 1.9m x 0.6m board in position. I would first drill through the board and into the masonry with a small 4mm drill. Then the holes in the wall were enlarged to fit rawplugs. The Board would be positioned and Louise "Muahahahahahahahahaha!" would use the power screwdriver to fix the board. Then the routine would start over again. We finished mid afternoon.

Then came the painting of the the boards which took till about 5:30, with Louise and I sharing the work.

The finished area looks really professional and we are all physically exhausted.

Picture hanging planned for tomorrow!

Tuesday 30 June 2009

Cambridge Open Studios Countdown Diary Mon 29th June

I will be using Garage as studio this year as this avoids both potential health & safety issues and ensures accessibility. However, need to get suitable surfaces to mount pictures on. Layout of pictures planned in Powerpoint.

Therefore went to B&Q to buy chipboard panels with the idea of painting them white and screwing them to garage walls.

Painted the backs of 4 of the 10 boards today to seal before fixing to wall - will tackle rest tomorrow.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Cambridge Open Studio Countdown - Fri 26th June

Went to the HBN meeting today (huntingdonshire business network) and received my pictures mounted by Lesley Sharp of FairFrames.

Lesley has done a fantastic job and at a reasonable price, bringing the best out of the 15 pictures done for the exhibition!

Heavens suddenly opened during the meeting with torrential rain, and I had parked on the other side of the river, a good 10 minutes walk away, and had no real protection for pictures.

Took refuge in Costa's for lunch and a drink with Sidney Skinner, who also publishes books - under UP Publications. He later kindly gave me a lift in his car to mine, so the pictures were OK.

Countdown diary of a Cambridge Open Studios Artist - Thu 25th June

Visited the Hills Road Sixth Form College Art Exhibition this eveing as daughters work also displayed there (and looking good!).

A good opportunity to see the wealth of artistic talent and ideas of the next generation of artists!

There were some excellent examples of technical competence in oils with a variety of portraits in styles from Classical to Lucien Freud. I particularly liked two sections, the fashion designs using a variety of materials other than fabrics and the photographers. Particularly struck by some of the monochrome portraits and enjoyed browsing one essay on the use of photoshopping of images and impact on beauty perception.

One series of photos dealing with death and crime suggested potential latent psychopathic tendencies.

Very thought provoking - and reassuring in a way too.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Countdown Diary Cambridge Open Studios - Wednesday - 10 days to go.

An exhibition also needs some low cost items, such as postcards. This is always a balancing act for an artist - do you go for low numbers (up to a few hundred) at a high price that could sell out or thousands cheaply, but you end up having lots left over after exhibition?

Either way, you don't necessarily get your money back in sales!

I took a gamble and ordered 120 from I was able to have 30 designs (4 cards each) done and they've just arrived today looking great! One worry less.

Phone line still down and internet at snails pace - Aaarrgh!

Countdown Diary Cambridge Open Studios - Tuesday - 11 days to go

Picked up my box of Open Studios Booklets from area distributor David Chow in Cottenham who's exhibiting his Photos of flowers this year (studio 131) . Gave some to Alison Hullyer (studio 133) in my Close as she's run out. We've agreed to open on the same weekends as it gets more difficult to attract visitors outside of the City. Went to Post Office, Surgery and Community Centre to stock up their booklets.

Telephone line down and broadband at a trickle at this critical time - BT engineers, Where are you?!?

Countdown Diary of an Open Studios Artist - Monday -12 days to go!

After 2 year gap, taking part again in Cambridge Open Studios as photographer - 149 studios open to public in July!

Picked up my printed pictures from Heather Maunders (artist 82) last Friday and passed on to be mounted and framed by Lesley of FairFrames. Always a balancing act in terms of costs - how many to have as just mounts and how many to frame fully as latter much more expensive. Have gone for 5 large pictures framed and 22 as mounts.

Friday 19 June 2009

The green green grass of artificial surfaces

From Wordle-images

The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, especially if its an artificial surface, as I found out when visiting Technical Surfaces with Jon Beal of Netflare to provide web marketing training. This gave me a glimpse into the world of artificial surfaces.
With an estimated cost of £300 000 to get a new pitch constructed and surfaced, why should a club or council countenance having an artificial site instead of a natural turf one, especially when the maintenance costs of an artificial surface are slightly more expensive to maintain, at £8000pa (instead of £7500pa for turf). Answer, a ten fold increase in available playing time per week, The average turf play time per week is 4h, in contrast, artificial surfaces permit 40h per week.
Artificial surfaces come in a variety of depths, depending on the sport they are to be used for – very short pile for Tennis and longer pile for football pitches. The surfaces are also seeded with an inert medium such as sand or granulated rubber. Evenly spread this gound supports the blades and provides a hard wearing surface.
To get the most of the artificial surface over its 10 – 15 year life and keep the manufacturer's warranty, it does need regular maintenance. Sweeping is a frequent need, to even out the spread of the sand or rubber ground and straighten the blades again.
Many clubs are unaware that more frequent sweeping and maintenance can have a beneficial effect. For this reason, Technical Surfaces have made it their aim to provide impartial information on artificial surface maintenance on their new (and still growing) website. Jon and I were there to assist them with both website structure and advice on writing relevant articles that can satisfy the myriad of questions by users and owners of artificial surfaces.
Whether its artificial playing surfaces or your website, they need constant care and attention, otherwise they deteriorate rapidly, with concurrent extra costs to put right!
To find out more about artificial surfaces and their care – make a point of visiting over the coming months as their portfolio of articles and case studies expands. For more information on structuring your website and writing productive articles, give me a call or contact Jon Beal at Netflare.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Swine flu update on progress world wide, nationally in UK and within UK regions up to 12th June 09

The news has been returning to swine flu over the past week with the WHO declaration that it is now a swine flu epidemic and that Scotland was experiencing many cases. I've been monitoring the available data from the WHO and the UK Health Protection Reports and feel that sufficient time has passed to provide some visusal data giving a possible insight on whether conrol measures are working, in the form of graphs.

The results suggest the following conclusions:
  1. The rate of new infections apparently slowing down in Mexico
  2. Control measures are having an effect in the USA and world generally in that the rate of new infections is only increasing linearly, as opposed to exponentially.
  3. Surprisingly, the UK is showing an exponential increase in the rate of new infections. Looking at the nations and regions, it appears that England's rate of increase is almost linear, with Scotland having shown an exponential increase over the last three weeks, which could explain the UK figures.
How did I interpret the graphs?

Looking at the wealth of information for winter flu and other flu epidemics, the curves created by data on numbers of confirmed infection show an approximation to an S curve. That is, infections increase exponentially (in a rising curve when plotting total infections against time) until levelling off to a tailing peak. This is how I show the data in my graphs. In a winter epidemic, this takes over circa 24 weeks.

If you plot the number of new cases against time over an epidemic, you get an epidemic curve which has a typical bell shape.

So assessing whether control measures are effective can be seen in two ways; 1. a slower rate of exponential increase during the first half of the S shaped infection curve 2. a lower peak of total infections.

We are only 6 to 8 weeks into the pandemic. It was therefore very gratifying to see that the USA and World graphs did not show the strong exponential increase in infection cases expected in an unregulated epidemic. Instead, the increases show a steady linear increase. In Mexico, there is even an indication that the epidemic is tailing off.

The exponential increase in the UK was therefore a surprise, even though this is predominantly due to the increases in Scotland over the 2 weeks before 12th June. However, we should bear in mind that the numbers of cases could still be a much lower figure than if no control measures had been introduced and also that we see significant changes for the better over coming weeks.

I'm not panicking! But I'm keeping my eye on the situation.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Getting our teeth into Glasgow

Despite a 4am start from Cambridge, Duesseldorf or Malvern, Mark, Marie,Ulrich and I found ourselves relatively bright on the Banks of the Clyde in the early afternoon. We entered the Scottish Exhibition Centre, the day before the British Dental Association Annual Exhibition to find organised chaos reigning as we came into the hall to find and set up the NRW – Dental Technician Mission Stand. Afterwards, I inevitably got distracted with the camera photographing the Squinty bridge and the Exhibition Centre in glorious sunshine.

The remaining delegates arrived later in the afternoon as we had our introduction to Scotland, with James from the Hotel Marriott reception reading out some of Burn's “Ode to a Toothache” to drive home the point of Scotland as an independent nation. Delegates also learnt how to find USPs or examples of their work unique to them by using their answers to client's specific questions and problems. Dinner in a Glasgow Tapas bar broke the ice that evening.

The next day, the German dental technicians put their new found skills to good use at the exhibition. With free internet access, I enjoyed returning the favour of the friendly and helpful reception at various stands with collecting their Tweets for my twitter blogs.

The afternoon included a visit to the exceptional Visage lifestyle Clinic where Dr Attiq Rahman, Director, introduced us to a top of the market, Harley Street clinic, combining Dentistry with Cosmetic treatments. We were all fascinated by the apparently Glass bowl like treatment room, with the treatment chair visible from reception. With smile, Attiq flicked a switch and the intelligent glass became opaque. Waiting patients could therefore gauge when the treatment room was in use or not.

We dined that night at the Piccolo Mondo where I enjoyed my Salmon and discovered an unexpected fellow Chocoholic when the after dinner mints arrived! Fortunately our preferences differed sufficiently; I enjoyed the square mints, my unnamed choclateur (or should that be chocolateuse?) preferred the round orange ones which all our colleagues generously donated to us!

Friday Morning brought us to the equally impressive Scottish Centre for Excellence in Dentistry. Arshad Ali BDS, FDSRCS (Eng & Edin), FDSRCPS (Glasg), DRD, MRD RCS (Edin) Welcomed us to his Top of the Market clinic, into which they had recently moved before dashing off to the BDA exhibition in his Bentley. Rodger & Kevin McLaughlin, father and son in house dental technicians and German speakers gave us a considerable amount of their time. Again, we were impressed by how a dental business vision could be taken to a high level.

Then it was back to the exhibition to support our Scotland based speaker Dr Tobias Rinke at the Seminar on German double crown telescope techniques to a packed room. He was introduced by Consul General Moessinger, who had lent his support to our mission and chatted amiably with us at the reception with invited guests immediately afterwards. The Consul General also gave me an impromptu tweet which, with a twinkle iin his eye, he wished Alex Salmond could see!

A good introductory talk on the BDA by Clare Crishop and colleague, a meeting with Henry of Raconteur, who provide the insert pages for The Times, and many others that we met at the exhibition made this a memorable but exhausting day. But now it was time to Party! Bernd had obtained invites for all of us to the BDA Party at the Corinthian. I was flagging by 11 and returned to a welcome bed – the hardcore party goers stayed on till well after 1pm!

Whilst the party goers recovered the next morning, I made an early dash into Glasgow for a second photo tour of the Merchant City and attractive city centre. After supporting Tobias' second seminar, we went on to Dental Technology Services. I can only describe it as the Shock and Awe visit as we were shown the future of dental technical services and support by Alex Littlejohn and his sons. The forward looking family team have built up an impressive business that has acquired sufficient clout to be approached by those companies seeking places to test cutting edge equipment.

The end of the NRW Mission left us better informed and willing to look towards uniting for further action in order to support the efforts of German dental technicians interested in the UK market.

You can read our tweets collated at

Relevant German articles
on interesting business introduction and setting your company apart from others at:

Participating companies were:
Dentaform GmbH, Schroeter Dentallabor GmbH, Schueler Dental-Technik, Ivorydent, Zahntechnik Horchmer & Joyeaux Meisterlabor, Zahntechnik Peters GmbH, Ulrich Schultheis Zahntechnik, Zahntechnik Roland Volkhardt, Form+Funktion
Dentaltechnik GmbH
, Dental-Labor Froesch GmbH, Teeth 'R' Us, Cooperation for Dental Comfort.

DE Organisers – Bety Chu of NRW International, Marie-Theres Luetje of Handwerkskammer Duesseldorf and Bernd Krey of the Handwerkskammer Koeln

UK organisation & support – Mark Dodsworth Europartnerships Ltd, Chris Thomas Milton Contact Ltd, Audra Green & Helen Murfin of Virtual Advantage

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Tweets from the NRW Mission trip to the British Dental Association Annual conference

From Wordle-images

Below is a collection of the tweets I made as a result of meeting people at the British Dental Association's Annual Exhibition in Glasgow and comments from the fantastic Dental Technicians in the fact finding delegation from North Rhine-Westphalia I was supporting.

The number of hits on links within the Tweets ranged from 9 to 32, with most averaging at about 19 - 20 hits. The statistics revealed that the responses peaked within 24 hours and that half of the visitors were from the US, followed by the UK. I use to shorten links and they provide the simple statistics as part of the service.

Tweeting from glasgow flyer bus on way from airport to station - assisting German delegation for rest of week in Glasgow

At German NRW stand with Ulrich of Teeth R Us and Reinhard of Helbig Dental GmbH, awaiting the masses at stand D35

Ulrich is the affable owner of a dental laboratory wih a sense of humour and a real interest in working with dentists

Ulrich thoroughly recommends the dentists version of Bohemian Rhapsody at !!

Roger Fangemann has already learnt the the UK dental market is not so different from the German one! Theyre like local partners

Reinhards speaking to two young dentists about to set up a practice who liked the cost effectivity of telescope prosth.

Dental crowns do not need to be implanted deeper than 6mm, so why do dentist use longer pins?

is small beautiful with dental stands at the BDA or does it actually limit what visitors can learn comments Gerd

Jaw alignment with Herbst appliances is a real attractant at the BDA when chatting at different stands, see

DPAS provide dental plans for patients who want affordable dental treatment with their dentists

BOS represents every orthodontist and their technicians and nurses in UK, lobbying and eduction

BDPMA help busy stressed dental practice managers run their dental businesses more successfully and profitably

Excellence in total personal improvement by combining dentistry and cosmetic surgery in one practice

It is important to know your personality type so that you can communicate effectively with others

Gathering of great dental minds following a long Scottish dental tradition, says Henry of Raconteurmedia

A dentist in every doctors practice? That's our business! Toothcare -

The young dentists are so enthusiastic when visiting Genix, says Sian

I'ts heartening to see so many seminars focussing on the patients experience at the BDA conference

looking forward to review of NHS dental Health services undertaken by Jimmy Steel

The Scots are a courageous people who always try to make the best of it! German General Consul Moessinger

The 50th anniversary of a German diplomatic presence in Edinburgh (General Consul Moessinger)

"I loved meeting and interacting with the dental professionals at the BDA" says Acasha

Dentistry with another dimension - Join the Airforce!

“I enjoyed the visit to the Scottish Centre for Excellence in Dentistry in Glasgow” Okyay Oeztugran,

“I've seen many interesting business ideas during th BDA conference for my clinic in Germany” Okyay Oeztugran,

“It was a perfectly organised trip! Good insight into the British dental market. Friendly and open people” Roger Fangemann

“A top organised trip to scotland with a very interesting Exhibition visit” Gerd Joyeux

“Finally a big dental market that needs to be developed for telescope technology” Gerd Joyeux

“A very interesting trip to Scotland that was well organised and informative”

“I was able to get a good insight into the Scottish dental market” Roland Volkhardt

“Useful visit at the Scottish dental exhibition in Glasgow” Christian Froesch

“You don't have to be a tooth fairy to shrink your dental bill!” Hildegart Hass-Stoetzel

Green Technologies meeting in Stratford Upon Avon

The rolling green countryside and the picturesque town of Stratford upon Avon were an appropriate place to meet Mark Dodsworth of Europartnerships for a visit to Mike Woollacott and his team at Greenwatt.

Greenwatt specialise in sustainable solutions and have particular expertise in the construction and renewable energy side of sustainable development, a growing area of interest for UK industry. Their involvement includes projects from Zero waste, via low carbon transport to sustainable engineering. Probably the best place to get an idea of their scope is to look at their projects page.

Our interest was in a potential synergy with the German market as part of the market assistance Mark and I provide for overseas companies. The enjoyable aspect of being small companies is that we can work together quite successfully for individual collaborative projects to provide a service greater than the sum of our parts. (Also see the Potsdam Green Ventures Album and the separate phototour of Potsdam itself.

It was a glorious day and sinceI had lived near Stratford upon Avon when working a post doc at the Institute of horticultural research, I took the camera into the town to take a few photos, as you can see from the slide show.

Monday 8 June 2009

Exhibition at the Lothbury Centre, Weston Colville

One of the delights of being with the Cambridge Open Studios as a participating artist is that you also help out at some of the pre launch events. This is how I found myself in the Lothbury centre in Weston Colville at the invitation of Clarissa Cochran, not only to exhibit but also to steward the exhibition on the very first Saturday.

This could have been a quiet day in the beautiful countryside between Cambridge and Newmarket were it not for the welcoming and inclusive people of Weston Colville! For on this Saturday, they also held their Fun and family event. Jane Pryor, herself an abstract artist, was besieged by families with junior school children in the hall we shared. Paint brushes, bright colours and enthusiasm abounded as the visitors made leaf prints for a future Church event. A parallel session composed stories about what life was like in a flower.

Alan Ogden, helping organise the events, returned at lunchtime and friendly yet forceful manner ensured that I was not confined to the hall but got out into the sun and enjoyed some of the food on offer. I had the best chocolate brownies I've eaten for a long time!

But what has this to do with Open Studios?!? The village event had a beneficial effect on the exhibition. The parents took a spare moment to view the exhibition; when the BBQ finished, there was a steady trickle of curious visitors. There were at least 22 adults and at least the same number of children who came to look at the pictures, ask questions, peer down my microscope at the delightfully gruesome headlouse and take away the Open Studios leaflets.

The overall moral of the story is that if you want to make your exhibition even more successful in the future, consider joining forces with or timing it to match a nearby event.

The Lothbury exhibition continues till the end of June. Cambridge Open Studios Weekends start the first weekend in July. I'm exhibiting the first two weekends, so do come along to artists 134 (Chris Thomas) and 133 (Alison Hullyer) in Milton!

Saturday 23 May 2009

Wildlife on Ely to Waterbeach walk

Michelle took up my twitter invite to join a walk from Ely to Waterbeach on a glorious sunny Saturday. Dry weather causing increasing cracks in the banks and cattle churning the path in places meant that we were often looking to our feet and noticing some of the smaller wildlife.

Starting with Muscovy ducks in the city of Ely, we passed herons, diving greater crested grebe, Greylag and Canada geese. Dragonflies (common darters) and damselflies flew tantalisingly in and out of cameral range. Butterflies were out too, from eyed peacocks and handed red admirals to lemon coloured Brimstones. Banded snails and others were abundant on parts of the walk. The yellow lichen Xanthoria parietina grew well on tree trunks and exposed gates.

In contrast to last weekend, there were more walkers out too, from ramblers young and old to the Romanian farm workers off to Ely.

It was great to have company on the walk, especially as Michelle's interest in Philosophy meant we touched on Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbs and Rousseau in relation to freedom and responsibility.

New concept for me to consider "freedom is defined in terms of the limitations others impose upon you".

Friday 22 May 2009

A little something to make you scratch your head!

Ten years ago our family had been victim to some persistent visitors. My wife arrived at work with the children in tow, with suspiciously wet hair.
"I have some good news and some bad news!" she greeted me.
"The bad news is that the children had caught headlice and have just been treated!"
"And the good news?" I asked.
"I kept a few for your microscope!"

I was truly grateful and made some permanent microscope slides.

Because the insects are a few millimeters long, they were difficult to photograph in focus throughout at the time using a film camera.

At last, in 2008, armed with a digital camera and modern software, I was able to revisit the slides for an new project, in preparation for Open Studios 2009.

My ambition was to photograph the head lice under polarised light, where the muscles glow in fantastic colours. Using Helicon software, I could also photograph at different focal depths and combine the images to obtain a final picture in focus throughout.

21 pictures were taken at different polarisation angles and foci to give the centre-piece picture of my Open Studios exhibition.

You can either shudder at or admire the images above taken of 2009 live (active and therefore blurred!) insects and the ones as specimens for eternity that I prepared over a decade ago with the final exhibition piece.

In 1976, Michael Andrews commented in his book "The Life that lives on Man" that at that time, there were 1.5 million "lousy" people estimated in the UK and that a survey in one industrial area in 1970 found 26% of secondary school children infected. He predicted, that despite eradication campaigns, the head louse would be with us in the future! He was right. My children's generation had them and they are thriving in the 21st Century!

You can see the print of the magically coloured Head Louse at my place as part of Open Studios this year over the first two weekends in July.

Thursday 21 May 2009

A walk along the Fen River Way

When Terry Downing asked for volunteers to join him on the 46 mile Pathfinder March in June, I fell for it! Since then, I've been trying to build up my stamina. Last Sunday I had an enjoyable walk from Milton to Ely (see slideshow), a treck of over 15 miles, which took 5 hours with all the diversions & photographs
This Saturday, 23rd May 2009, I'll be walking the other way, from Ely to Milton and welcome the company of anyone wishing to come along! The itinerary and rescue points below:
  • 11 am Start: Ely - River by Maltings
  • Past road entrance to Ely Railway Station
  • Across bridge to Eastern river bank path (Fen River Way walk)
  • 1st possible collection point at 5 miles (crossing of Stretham-Wicken Road)
  • 2nd possible collection point at 6.6 miles (Upware - Five Miles From Anywhere Pub)
  • 3rd possible collection point at 11.6 miles (Clayhithe/Waterbeach)
  • 4pm-5pm Finish Milton (15 miles)
Give me a call on 01223 440024 if you would like to join me on the walk.

Friday 1 May 2009

A Grand Day out at InternetWorld 2009, Earls Court

Mark Dodsworth of Europartnerships and I decided to get up and meet some real people behind the headings in the InternetWorld catalogue of Exhibitors. The intention was to see how relevant and how interesting any might be for our Autumn IT delegation from Germany. To aid my memory and as a benefit to those we accosted, I took the occasional photo and asked for their tweet texts.

The first thing to note was that most companies sounded far more interesting and were very enthusiastic when spoken to as opposed to their exhibition guide entries. A few stood out particularly.

In a competitive word of web designers and service providers, Jilly Welch of Fortune Cookies stood out in the way she communicated with visitors to her stand. Warm, engaging and informative, her knowledgeable approach was more that of a conversation between business friends instead of the heavy and often technical sales pitch so often encountered. I am sure others will remember her all the more for it and approach her more readily in the future.

Walking by the Chillifish stand, with its framed pictures and no other explanatory text, I was intrigued enough to talk to Louise. A company specifically targeting the marketing of high value brands! Brilliant concept which fitted in with the brand image approach of the stand. Chillifish also provided the best free gift for me personally, the book "It's not how good you are, It's how good you want to be." By Paul Arden who used to work for Saatchi & Saatchi.

Everyone was talking about accessibility but Nomensa really meant it with solutions for the visually and otherwise impaired. One of their products was a dating game for the RNIB (organization supporting blind and partially sighted people) as well as making flash more accessible (damn – it’s that word again!).

The InBox Warriors also presented a totally different look to the suits and conservative attire, with their relaxed T-Shirts, cult film “The Warriors(?)” running in the background and a stand with giant soft cushions to sit on. Their avowed aim was to ensure E-Mail campaigns by their clients actually hit the in-boxes of the prospective customers. With a Job title on the business card of “Client Slave”, Tony brought a smile to my face.

I could go on about all the others I met – perhaps the Tweets below will give you a flavour.

The exhibition was well organized, however there was one sour note – the food. The Baked Potato at Internet world yesterday was another example of exploitation - nearly £6 for a baked potato - skin was forming on baked beans, the chilli con carni had an unappetising black dried out crust on top, fortunately the cottage cheese & chives was OK. And service? the indifferent serving staff made it more like receiving slops than a meal (and I can normally entice a positive smile from most serving counters). Also the little shop serving chocolates had Mars bars at £0.70, where you could get them for £0.55 at a kiosk within 100yds outside near the station

Overall though, Internet World was a positive experience and we make plenty of contacts who were either interested in talking to us later in the year re our delegation or would be able to pass us onto relevant people.

Tweets (most recent first)

@miltoncontact Best InternetWorld freebie from Chillifish - Book "It's not how good you are, It's how good you want to be." #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Innovative integrated security for cross-platform applications" Sharp on Gridsure #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Protection, intelligence, growth, consumer protection - the power of association" the DMA #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Providing advice , knowledge and support to Austrian companies" Austrian Chamber #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Digital pen and flipcharts for annotating presentations - only £99!" Papershow, Hamelin Paper brands - #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Widescreen eye-tracking to optimise your site; with detailed analysis" Acuity #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Getting your message into your clients in-box!" Inbox Warriors #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Hi end brand internet marketing" Chillifish - #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Don't miss important parcel deliveries whilst out on business" ByBox #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Reward customers, increase their loyalty and generate extra revenue" Adaptive affinity #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Dating game for RNIB and other unique accessibility services - humanising technology" - Nomensa #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Web design & Development specialising in accessibility and useability" Fortune Cookie #iw_expo

@miltoncontact "Leading international professional body for marketing" - the Chartered institute of Marketing #iw_expo

@miltoncontact Due to poor internet connection at Internet World 2009, entering my tweets after return home #iw_expo

Wednesday 8 April 2009

From Virtual Reality to Pyramids in Halle

Traveling south of Berlin into the plains that reminded me of flat East Anglia, Sylvia Schmidt of Come Across and I headed to Halle to meet a further five companies curious about opportunities for their businesses in the UK. It promised to be an even warmer day than our visit to Potsdam yesterday and our run of appointments precluded any thoughts of sightseeing or even lunch!

Michael Dresher of the IHK in Halle made us welcome and lent his support in the meetings that followed.

Michael K├Ąding of ANOVA had come down all the way from Rostock on the Baltic coast. Instead of my research memories of ANalysis Of VAriance, the company ANOVA deals with the far more exciting software for visualising home furnishings. Ideal for large sellers of curtain materials, flooring and other interior furnishings, the neat feature of the software is that patterns on fabrics selected by a shopper are molded to the shape of the folds on a particular curtain or drape – giving a much more realistic impression on how their purchase might fit into their home.

Now I know that the standing joke in the UK is that Christmas starts immediately after Easter, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Manfred Salzman was a bit premature in coming to talk about a unique German decoration, the Christmas Pyramid. This is a multi tiered, decorated wooden construction with rotating platforms of Xmas figures, driven by a candle powered fan. Except that Manfred though big, real big – nearly 10m tall in fact! His Christmas Pyramids are centrepieces of German Xmas Markets and contain 25 square metres of pavilion shopping space for businesses that recoup their purchase price. Brilliant for city centre attractions in the December run up to the festive season.

Whilst Saloons epitomise Westerns (films), the company Celloon links itself more to the social aspect of Saloons – meeting people and entertainment. Last week at a Brimingham IT fair, I saw mobile phone interactivity with posters or othr printed media using RFID or bhluetooth technology. Mirko Kisser had come up with an ingenious variant that embedded a visual pattern in the advertising medium and background pictures. A simple piece of self installing software would enable anyone with a mobile phone having a camera to scan an ad or poster with such a design and immediately be redirected to the relevant site on the web. Mirko showed another application by having a design incorporated onto his business card – another mobile could view the card and download his contact details almost instantaneously.

Still waters run deep, as I found when talking to the quiet spoken director of DSSD, Dirk Schulz and his ebullient Sales Director Andree Kruczynski. Dirk has developed a 3D virtual construction software that allows manufacturers to build their prototypes and test them. The neat feature is that real hardware and existing software can interact with the prototype to test functionality and identify issues arising during design. The system had already been used successfully in the automotive industry in Germany and was now available for other manufacturer worldwide. There was a possibility of having a play with the VR Helmet and gloves of the deluxe version on a return visit which I could look forward to.

It was also good to see a familiar face again, Dr Holger Noffz, who had developed an excellent relationship with Sylvia, as evidenced by their animated conversation. Holger's company ACL manufactures high specification PCs and equipment that is suitable for use in operating rooms and other medical environments. The key feature of his products, from a client's purchasing perspective, was that whilst specifically designed to function safely and relevantly in a medical environment – these were not medical devices. This means that they can be purchased on the normal local budgets, rather than under the demanding conditions set for purchasing medical equipment such as X-ray machines etc.

Our enthusiasm on the day let us overrun, which meant that we had to sprint to the railway station to catch our train back to Berlin. Sylvia and I crashed late that evening, exhausted by the busy days yet still exhilarated by the meetings with the people we met.

My Tweets on Twitter for the day were:

#halle-ihk 5 varied and intersting companies met in Halle Germany , searching for UK contacts & partners

#halle-ihk the software for interior design: visualising 3D Window dressing, floor patterns and layouts from digi photo

#halle-ihk X-mas pyramids for Xmas markets - 10m high and with 25m floor space to sell Xmas goods from! contact me for more info

#halle-ihk "Click, Collect & Share" -Mobile phone interactivity to events via 2D codes on printed ads caught on camera

#halle-ihk interFACE reality for designing virtual prototypes able to interact with real hard & software

#halle-ihk modular operation room PCs - Hi spec for medical environment without hassle of being medical equipment!