Sunday, November 29, 2009

Barracuda Studios at IPMS UK Nationals - part 2

A rare restored Bristol Beaufort in Coastal Command colors.
Sopwith triplane on display at the RAF Museum Hendon.

Hi Guys,

Hey, at least its still the same month as the last posting... Back to my trip to the the other side of the pond for the IPMS/UK Nationals. I arrived at Heathrow Airport around 7AM, went through Customs and picked up my luggage. I was met by Robin Powell, who had, as previously mentioned, taken the week off. We loaded my stuff into his beloved Land Rover Discovery, and headed off to the RAF Museum at Hendon. My first plan, to visit the Mosquito Air Museum, had gone down in flames as they rolled up the sidewalks for the winter not 3 days earlier. I had been to Hendon twice before, more than 12 years ago. I was not all that excited to see it again, as I assumed that it would be much the same. I was wrong.

Arriving at Hendon at about 10:30, we soon discovered that the museum wasn't open until noon. OK, we'll go and sit down and have some breakfast in the cafeteria next door. Nope. No hot food until 11:30. OK... adapt, adopt, and improve. The guard told us that the WWI exhibit was open, and closes at noon! Right... So, off we went to see the bipes. A superb collection, focusing on British types mostly, and nicely displayed. We then grabbed a traditional English breakfast at the cafe.

By then, the main museum was open, so we entered the brand new Milestones of Flight Hall. While it is very new and modern looking, we were dismayed at how the aircraft were displayed. The only complete Hawker Tempest V on display anywhere, and not only is it hanging 30 feet in the air, but it is painted in Target Tug markings! WTH?? One of the RAFs best fighters of WWII, and its painted up in non-combat markings! At least they could have put it in Beamont's markings and had it chasing a V-1 or something! In fact, the only aircraft that were displayed on the ground were Luftwaffe and Japanese aircraft. If the whole Museum was like this, we were going to leave.

We moseyed over to the next hall (can you mosey in the UK? I guess you can!), and were greatly relieved. The hall was well laid out and reasonably well lit. While the aircraft were roped off, you could get pretty close to them and most aircraft were displayed so that you could see them from every angle. There are 3 main halls, filled with an outstanding collection of important and beautifully restored aircraft, just over 100 in all! Go to Wikipedia and type in RAF Museum Hendon to see a complete list. My favorite exhibits were the Bristol Beaufort (first one I've seen!), the Tempest II, the Lightning F6, and of course the Lanc and Spit 24. They also have a truly excellent display of weapons and engines. Many billions of pixels gave their all as I went on a mad photographic spree. I am very glad we stopped by.

An excellent museum, and I'd like the guys from Udvar-Hazy to see how a museum SHOULD be laid out. I'm not knocking all the hard work the Smithsonian guys put in, but the way the aircraft are displayed is useless to the serious historian or model builder. Many aircraft are only viewable from one angle, and you can't get within 30 feet of many of them. They are also militant about tripods and even balancing cameras on benches and the like.

Ok, rant over... for now. It was getting late, and we had a 2 hour drive (or more, I didn't keep time) to get to Poole where Robin and Linda live. The next morning (Friday), we started packing up and getting ready for the drive up to Telford for the IPMS show. Robin has run the Magna Models stand for the last few years, as the owner now lives in Spain, and does not make it out for the shows anymore. Jamming all the Magna and Barracuda Studios stuff into the Disco took some doing, but eventually it all fit, and by the early afternoon we were heading north.

The faint smell of plastic in the air driving us on...

Happy modelling! Roy

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Barracuda Studios at IPMS UK Nationals - part 1

The Station Inn in Horsehay, not far from Telford. A terrific pub.
L to R: Me, Mike Belcher, Robin Powell, Jan Belcher at the Station
Inn. Not seen is Linda, who is taking the picture. Great food here.
Note the extensive options on the board for the bangers and mash.

Hi Guys,

I'm back from my trip to the UK. I returned on Thursday and am finally getting back to PST time. It's interesting that jetlag is a lot more ferocious when travelling eastbound. Westbound, you seem to adjust a lot more quickly. I didn't have any trouble adjusting to the time change either direction this time, especially regarding sleep patterns, but the fatigue is another matter. It is hard to understand how sitting down for 11 hours is so exhausting, but I hear it is a combination of the altitude and constant jet noise that wears you out. Whatever it is, its a small price to pay to be able to travel 5,371 miles to attend the biggest plastic model convention in the world.

Telford, a small town just Northwest of Birmingham, England, has been the home of the IPMS UK National Convention for the last 11 years. Before that, it was held for a number of years at the Donnington Exhibition Centre. Prior to that, it was held at Stoneleigh Agricultural Centre. As the show has grown, the venue has become bigger (and more civilized). The Telford Exhibition Centre is a modern building purpos designed for conventions. It is well lit and properly heated, with plenty of space for the show to continue to grow. There are hotels very nearby, although there seems to be a local ordinance preventing restaurants from operating! To get to any decent restaurants, you need to travel to nearby Shifnal.

A word about English food. There is a widely held perception that English food is bland and awful. That has not been my experience, especially in recent years. I had some really great food on this last trip. I had a terrific burger in a pub in Horsehay called the Station Inn.

It was a beef and grain mustard burger with melted cheese and onion chutney on a tomato focaccia bread. Sound bland to you? It was amazing. Had bangers and mash another night. A choice of 8 different savory sausages to choose from, 6 different flavored and spiced mashed potatoes, with a choice of 6 different sauces, all in a Yorkshire pudding. Damn good. England has some of the best Indian food anywhere. Also had a Donner kebab (the Turkish equivalent of a Greek Gyro) that was excellent, and the old standard of cod and chips.

The beer is also worth the trip. Again, the myth of warm beer needs busting. Beer is served cool, not ice cold. The Natives will tell you that the only reason you need to chill a beer to near freezing is to kill the taste! In fact, getting ice in drinks is very uncommon, and they look at you funny if you ask. The beer I drank was mostly from local breweries. Bitters and Ales mostly. Ranging from good to excellent, the best being a local brew made for the fall season called Scream. Sorry, couldn't tell you the name of the Brewery.

Anyway, while I was in England, I was the guests of my good Friends Robin and Linda Powell. I met Robin more than 12 years ago at Silicon Valley Scale modelers meeting in Milpitas, CA. Robin is a native of the UK, but was living in California for a number of years, and working in Silicon Valley. He is an avid and fearless builder, tackling the most complex vacform and resin kits, as well as the occasional scratchbuild or major conversion. We have been friends ever since. About 5-6 years ago, he moved back to the UK. He was kind enough to invite me to stay during my trip, and even took off a week from work to squire me around to museums. They are good friends and I really enjoyed my stay. On Saturday and Sunday night, we met up with my old friends Mike and Jan Belcher, of Belcher Bits fame for dinner. On Saturday night, we were also joined by another long time modelling friend Adrian Constable.

Some say that modelling is a solitary hobby. I disagree. The friendships I have made over the years from attending shows and meetings are one of the highlights of this hobby for me.

Thats enough for now. Part 2 will follow soon and i'll get down to discussing the show. Part 3 will cover some of my museum trips, where I took more than 1600 photos!

Happy modelling! Roy