Eastward ho!

For several years the club has intended to take part in competitions arranged by IPMS Finland, but it’s been difficult to work out when they’ve been and often they have collided with our own competition, but now we got wind of an event in time to prepare an informal visit.

While the competition is open to all comers, nobody has thought about making an international version of the web pages, so I quickly translate the rules to Swedish and help my competing friends fill in the registration pages.

I work through various travel alternatives and find to my fascination that travel + hotel accommodation works out to cheaper than travel alone. Then dinner bookings double the price again. I think I see where the ferry company makes its profit. Honeybuns, who of course will have to come along, has a work trip leaving Stockholm on the Sunday afternoon, so I book just a forth-and-back cruise for the two of us, and weekend trips for the rest of the gang.

Once we have gotten on board ship and sorted out accommodation, we can hang out on deck by the bar. In the gift shop we find T-shirts with a Brewster 239 motifs, which we all of us decide we need. There are also some new and very good-looking snap-together aircraft kits that could be interesting to play with. The various kinds of licorice in the tax-free shop have to be carefully evaluated. We have a dinner buffet booked and find ourselves next to a large group of youngsters in their twenties out celebrating something. They are more than a little tipsy and quite noisy, but one young man still manages to make a very eloquent speech to the ladies and one of them in particular. We applaud this with the others.

When we arrive in the Olympia Harbour in Helsinki the next morning, we split up, half of us first locating the hotel and checking in, then following the rest of us, who have taken all the models in a taxi out to the Exhibition and Congress Centre. Crikey! It seems all of Helsinki is there. A local contact meets us at the door and escorts us in through the crowds. The IPMS stand is right in the middle of the hall and we go there to unpack and display the models. Just because there were web forms doesn’t mean the data has gotten communicated to the judges, so we have to fill in paper forms as well. There are greetings exchanged by the chairmen of IPMSs Finland, Helsinki, Sweden, and Stockholm. (We’re a fairly small community, all in all.) I make a circuit of the IPMS stand and then strike out for the rest of the hall.

Model Expo is similar in idea to the Hobby Fair in Stockholm, but done right. It’s huge, also in the range of attending hobbyists. Wandering around we find model rail-roaders, R/C fliers, wargamers, doll-house builders, model rocketeers, Lego builders, armour fans, the R/C club of the Finnish Army, construction machine modellers, and aviation historians. Next to the IPMS stand is a large pool where R/C ships zoom about. Close to it is the stand of the Finnish R/C sailship association. Its member is there. A large area is taken up by a race course for R/C cars, drawing a large audience. Next to them is something that seems to be robot wrestling. The people there tinker with their gadgets, but show video on the wall and a match is promised for later in the day. To my disappointment it turns out the “robots” are not autonomous, but radio-controlled. The entire next hall is given over to R/C fliers, who are currently flying combat. I haven’t seen that done with R/C planes before.

The Finnish Model Horse Collectors shared the stand with IPMS. Note that they don’t just collect, they model and paint the horses, and as you can see, carefully document the originals.The IPMS contest had much larger skill range than would be seen in Stockholm. This Il-40 wouldn’t win any prizes in either place, but it’s a way cool aircraft in all its ugliness.
The dollhouse makers were much more imaginative than anything we’d seen from Swedish builders. This old people’s home was so spot on only the smell was missing.This old lady on the other hand is the real thing. She worked at her spinning wheel and sold mats of her own manufacture.
H0 Helsinki trams.If you want to know the time, ask a stormtrooper.

However, eventually we realise that Model Expo is just the smaller exhibition, in parallel with a child fair and a pet fair. Honeybuns insists we go and check out the pet fair. We find an entire hall filled with bunnies. All kinds of bunnies, in every conceivable colour scheme and in all sizes. The biggest ones are the size of pigs and would scare the wits out of me if I met them outdoors, but they seem securely caged. I try to photograph some of the cutest bunnies, but the camera insists on auto-focussing on the cage lattice, so I just get pictures of metal grids.

Upstairs we find the dog exhibition and watch an obedience display. The next hall contains cats in cages and all the smaller animals, rats, guinea-pigs, hamsters, etc. Honeybuns racks up a considerable wish list for Christmas.

By now we are pretty hungry and locate the food mezzanine. I navigate the G and L markings and end up with a fantastically bland pepperoni salad. I remember that Terry Pratchett claims to have been inspired to CMOT Dibbler’s tasteless sausages by a Finnish hot dog.

We continue our examination of the stands and I start to more intentionally look through the shops for various interesting items and eventually buy some books that are likely to come in handy.

Then Honeybuns and I have to leave for our ship home and leave our companions to explore Helsinki on their own. We take a taxi and pass the cemetary where I clean up my father’s grave after the winter. Honeybuns takes the opportunity to accompany me as the taxi driver apparently has been sitting in the sun all day, so the atmosphere in the cab is rather close.

There are not as many passengers on the ship when we return, so we take it easy. We have dinner in one of the restaurants, where the staff have some problems wrapping their minds around the concept that “no dairy” implies no butter and no cream, but eventually they come through and present quite decent meals for both me and Honeybuns.

Later, as we prepare for bed, Honeybuns goes “Yuck!” and points out an insect in the washbasin: a cockroach! Ick! I skoosh it and give it a sea burial in the loo. Now, how many others might there be and have they had an opportunity to lay any eggs in our luggage? Nothing to be done about things during the night though.

When we arrive in Stockholm the next morning we rush to our respective homes, Honeybuns to drown any creepy-crawlies in the washing machine, me to kill them in the freezer. So far they don’t seem to have spawned.

And our friends took all the prizes they could.

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