Wednesday 27 October 2010

The Gypsy and Country Craft Fair in Milton Country Park

Good news about Gypsies and Romanies gathering on private land in Milton! In Black and White (and colour too) on the Cambridge Evening News website. That was the satisfying outcome of last weekend's event at Milton Country Park. Because this was Candy Sheriden's second big event, the Gypsy and Country Crafts Fair.

I took my camera along on Sunday under a glorious blue sky and amongst the autumnal trees of Milton Country Park.

There was a small group of women chatting near Phoebe's cake stand but I couldn't quite build up the courage to start snapping away. Till one turned around and said, "Come on then, take a picture!" She held up a cake and mimed eating it to general laughter. The ice was broken as we tried different poses and even dragged in unsuspecting passers-by.

Walking on, there were stalls and people that I remembered from last June's event. People were generally friendly and positive. I recognised some of the glorious 70s chrome caravans and the flying silver lady on the bonnet of the old Bedford van. Childrens clothes in intricate needlework and incredible miniature tweed suits. The story teller in fancy dress and an impressive beard. The one sad omission was Bill Goodyear and his caravan. He had passed away since the June fair

As I ate my Gloucester Old Spot hot dog (fantastic taste!), I noticed something else. There were a lot of conversations going on. Men with a glass in their hand. Women exchanging news.

Meeting up with Candy, she explained why. This was the last gathering before the winter for families across the UK. A last chance to meet with friends and family, to catch up with what had gone on in the weeks before. The next meeting would not be till May next year.

I'm also looking forward to a similar event next year. Hopefully in the warmer summer months, rather than the biting October wind!

As a photographer and local person, I'd like to see:
Building on the high upmarket and traditional standard set by the June event. With the attractive caravans, vehicles,crafts and horses at the centre again. The open, friendly atmosphere.

What I'd hope to be absent:
Red and white plastic tape fencing off areas (good rope would look better). Plastic netting around stalls. These ruin any chance of a good wide-angle photograph! They distract from the quality goods on sale.

To have one successful event can be a matter of luck. To have two, shows vision and competence by the organisers and Milton Country Park. I'm curious what the next event will be like!

Saturday 16 October 2010

Teeth"R"Us at the BDTA Dental Showcase and photos along the Thames.

Women shrouded on chairs with a rictus grin, exposing their blue lined teeth. Cabinets filled with gleaming sharp instruments and pliers. Was this the torture chamber of the London Dungeon? No, I was walking past stands at the BDTA Dental Showcase 2010 in the ExCel, London!

I had made my way there to meet up with Ulrich Heker of Teeth"R"Us. Ulrich is an expert in precision dental attachments and was showing his expertise at D21a. It was good to come and see him, not only as a former participant with a German delegation to Glasgow in 2009, but as a friend through working together.

Ulrich had seen a need to train UK dentists in the art of German high quality precision dental work. We worked together and wrote articles for The Technologist and other dental magazines. You can find the electronic versions here.

His stand was already very busy. Both Ulrich and Christian Eis, a dentist partner, were talking to interested visitors. So I picked up some leaflets and wandered around the show to find other possible partners for Ulrich and Christian.

The BDTA was a fascinating show. You could find everything, from a new type of toothbrush to the complete dental laboratory. The ladies in shrouds were willing volunteers for tooth whitening. Hydrogen peroxide is the agent used to bleach the teeth and can be applied  in a variety of ways. At the other end of the hall was a glass dental laboratory where new methods were being shown. The audience could look in from three sides, with a screen giving added information.

One of the ironies of the show was the ubiquitous use of sweets and chocolates to entice visitors to the stands. Either that, or it was a clever ploy to increase business in the longer term. The definite disappointment was the overpriced ciabatta with its limp salad at the cafe in the arena.

After making some successful new contacts and finding the stand still in full swing, I took a walk out of the show.

The bridge across the crane-lined Royal Victoria dock was in the fligh path of London City airport. This was a good site for photos of the jets and turbo-jet planes flying overhead. I then made  my way to Barrier Park by the river, to catch a full view of the spectacular Thames Barrier. It was officially opened in 1984 to protect London from exceptional high tides and weather conditions that could threaten to flood London. In the 1980s it was closed four times, and in the 1990s, 35 times. Perhaps it is an sign of global warming that in the first decade of this century, it has been closed 75 times already.

The Docklands Light Railway swept in a futuristic curve overhead. So I took the lift up at Pontoon Dock station to catch a train to the next stop. My hope was to get a clear picture of the 02 Arena, which I remembered from the Millenium show. I found the East India Dock nature reserve after a further walk and took my photos from there. Slightly stained by age, the dome was still a spectacular sight.

The city high rise buildings glinted quite close in the West but my time and the light were running out. So it was back to meet up with Ulrich and party. They had had a steady stream of visitors and also identified more interest by dental magazines, plus possible opportunities with training institutions.

Now, at the end of a long day, it was top marks to Ulrich for finding a good food pub (The Fox) a short walk from the West entrance of Excel! Having been generously treated to a meal, I sadly had to leave. Catching the late train back to Cambridge, I arrived home at last, shortly before midnight.

This was a positive day out, for business and photography.

Have you visited any great exhibitions and locations recently?

Monday 11 October 2010

Mandarin capped, stuffed roast apple halves

From Cakes
Here is a quick solution if you want to avoid singing your sultana stuffing in roast apple halves. Cap them with mandarin or similar small orange shells!

With our small apple tree still full of cookers, there was an opportunity to quickly roast some apple halves for dessert. I halved the apple and cored it. The sultanas to be used as stuffing were a bit dry.  So I cut a mandarin in half and squeezed the juice of each half into the sultana filling. This was followed with a drizzling of golden syrup over the top of the apples. On a whim, I then placed the squeezed mandarin shells as caps on top. Finally I added a drop of water to the dish in which the apples were standing.

Forty minutes at 220 degC later, the boggle apple-eyed face had cooked to perfection. Underneath the mandarin caps (which were not for eating), the sultanas had plumped up and softened. Even better, they had not charred on top as they often do.

Served with custard, these roasted apples made a great end to a Sunday dinner.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

If Galileo were alive today

One night in 1610, Galileo Galilei pointed his 30x telescope at Jupiter and over the coming nights observed that three small stars moved around the planet - they were in fact it's moons. (He discovered the fourth moon later).It's a simple pleasure that anyone with binoculars can recreate, especially as Jupiter is currently bright in the early evening sky.

Tonight I put my camcorder on the tripod and had a go.

The Panasonic SDR-80 has an amazing 70 x zoom. I'd hoped to capture Jupiter as a brighter star and was amazed when I could also see the four moons in a line. Obviously, you can get a much better image with a large reflector telescope! However, my images were probably better than those seen by Galileo back in 1610.

It just made me think, what would Galileo have achieved if he'd been alive today?

Friday 1 October 2010

Tips for Berlin

For those of us in Cambridgeshire, Stansted is a great gateway to the city of Berlin.

I usually stay in the suburb of Fichtenhain. This is in the former East and while it still looks a bit run down and is also full with students, it has does have three advantages.

  1. There are a number of small but good hotels. This September business trip I stayed at the "Hotel 26", on the Grünberger Strasse; clean rooms, free wifi and an excellent breakfast.
  2. It is a great place to eat out at a reasonable price. Many of the eateries are along or near the Simon-Dach Strasse, and provide a range of food from Italian, Thai to Indian and Portuguese.
  3. Oh yes, the nearby Warshauer Strasse S-Bahn Station gives you quick access to the rest of Berlin for your meetings!

Other hotels that I've stayed at in the past include the "Pension Bismark" in Charlottenburg and the "Riverside Hotel", only 400 yards from the Museums Insel.

Travelling around is easy using the S-Bahn (tramway) and U-Bahn (Underground). A good bet is to get a "Tageskarte" (day ticket) for only €6.10 that lets you travel the central AB tarif zone. This covers the wider Berlin area, though not as far as the airport.

There are ticket machines at most stations but note that they do not take €20 notes, the smallest banknote I get when buying Euros at the UK Post Office. It also took me a couple of trips to get used to the idea that you bought your ticket and then went to a pillar on the platform to have it stamped BEFORE getting on the tram, tube or bus.

Whenever I travel to Berlin on business, I always make sure that I have at least a couple of free hours on one day. There are museums, great buildings and many sights to see. A good place to start is the east of Berlin, where you can see the bust of Nefertiti, visit the Dom and view the city from the top of the Fersehturm within one square kilometer.

This time I used the time to visit the small palace of Charlottenburg with its French style gardens. Nearby I found another gem, the Museum Berggruen which has a fascinating collection of art by Matisse, Picasso and Klee. If you only have time in the evening and are near the Reichstag, go in and walk up the spiral, inside the lit Norman Foster dome. Last entry is at 22:00h you may still have to queue for a while!

The time will come to return to either Tegel or Schoenefeld Airport, depending on your airline. Both the train and the S-Bahn stop at the station several hunderd yards from the terminal of Schoenefeld Airport, which is reached by a covered curved walkway. If you take the tube to Rüdow then catch the bus that takes you directly to the terminal doors.

Schoenefeld Airport is still being expanded as the old buildings are far too small for the traffic going through. Warning - do not go through the security gates too early as once you are on the other side, it is cramped with little seating room and narrow corridors!

I always have the pleasure of knowing that at some point there will be another chance to visit Berlin in the future. I hope that you get a chance to visit it too!

What are your favourite cities?