Monday, 21 August 2017

IPP37 Thursday / Friday

Gill and I have a late lie-in and totally miss the cut-off for breakfast so we get a croissant and some muffins at Starbucks… there’s some gentle socialising in the lobby before people begin gathering for the afternoon walking tours. Gill and I are on shepherding duties, sweeping up the rear of our tour group - where importantly, we managed not to lose anyone! 

We spend several hours wandering around the Latin Quarter visiting a store of French epicurean delights, tasting wine and cheeses with some lovely local bread at our first stop, before taking in the Sorbonne, old bath-houses and the Pantheon and ending up at a little tea shop with a lot of history.

We find Taus and Isabel and Kevin back at the hotel and we make plans to grab dinner at A’Louette with them… it’s quickly becoming our go-to bistro here. Dinner is great as usual with plenty of chatter about airline crew scheduling and medics’ on-call rostering – obviously. 

Back at the hotel we find some mates and hit the Design Competition room once more…

We spend a while trying hard to goad Eric into agreeing to make some of the cube dissections in the competition in wood by telling him that Tom didn’t think he’d be able to … we’re not sure if we succeeded or not, but if we did, they will be awesome!

Tom Lensch brings me a care package that includes a copy of Oskar’s Space Rings in wood…! Insane! And gorgeous! (Thanks Tom!) 

Later on I’m feeling the need to fade for the night but I get dragged up to Chinny’s room to collect some treasure just before crashing somewhere around midnight…

On Friday morning the alarm gets us up early so we can breakfast with the Hutchisons and the Wiltshires before heading toward the buses that take us to a boat on the Seine. We cruise up the Seine and around the Île de la Cité taking in all the lovely sights along the way before parking back underneath the Eiffel Tower.

From there our bus takes us to the Pompidou Centre for a few hours wandering – we head off to find a nearby craft shop (that just happened to be half a block from one of the puzzle stores we’d visited on Wednesday with Lionel, honest guv!) for the girls and have lunch at a little local bagel joint… when in Paris, eat like a New Yoiker! The bagels were brilliant, but the Nutella crepes from a street vendor afterwards were just what the doctor ordered. 

Back on the bus to the Magic Museum for a magic show, a visit to play with their automata collection and a while to wander around the gift shop and the optical illusion and magic exhibits… including a working model of Robert Houdin’s blossoming orange tree illusion – that alone was worth the visit! 

A little gentle antique puzzle shopping among the local antique stores before heading back to the hotel… Said a quick hello to Jim K in the lobby (and this time he didn’t tell me he was having a heart attack, hooray!) before grabbing an hour’s kip before the Founders’ reception. 

It was great to see Mike and Margaret again after a couple of years… and pick up just where we left off... they’re a lovely couple!

I was very chuffed to get to meet Rainer Popp, the trick-lock-meister… he and Shane and a few of the MPP gang had formed a bit of a clump and I was honoured to join them… and well-gob-smacked when Rainer produced a prototype of his T11 – a gorgeous great big hunk of a padlock… I immediately asked him to take my money, and a kidney, but he was having none of it… he gamely let a few of us prod and poke it and when I found something interesting and remarked to Shane, he just rolled his eyes and said “You have NO idea, mate…” – I think that one is going to be EPIC!

Jerry had brought a copy of a prototype of his 3D version of Burrnova and a bunch of us stood around triggering it and watching it fire off in all directions with a silly grin on our faces… then reloading and doing it all over again… small things amuse small minds… we tried hard to convince him to manufacture them, it seemed only right that more people got to experience that silly-grin-thing!

Tomas had a wonderful time with his little belt hanger – asking people for their belts and then giving a brilliantly entertaining demonstration of the gravity defying belt hanger…

…and there was close-up magic all around from a variety of people… so much to see and do that I didn’t even make it back to the Design Competition room that evening…

Friday, 18 August 2017

Laurie Brokenshire - In memory

Our good friend Laurie passed away surrounded by his loving family while we were in Paris at IPP37. This morning we went to his funeral.

There were a few puzzlers there… there were a lot of Royal Navy personnel there… there were a number of Sea Cadet folks in uniform… there were a lot of folk from the fostering community (and young people the Brokenshires had  fostered) there… there were a lot of Magic folks and plenty of Church folks… 

We got there early and managed to get seats – a lot of people who also got there well before the service was due to start didn’t get seats… there were a lot of us there to say goodbye to our friend, colleague, father figure.

Gill & I only met Laurie about 5 years ago, but it seemed like we’d known him and Ethel for ages – he was that sort of bloke – instantly disarming and warm, and just welcomed you into his life and made you feel that you belonged there.

I’d always marvelled at the things that he and Ethel got up – it always seemed that they had a million things on the go at the same time and somehow managed to make time to do each one of them brilliantly. I just love telling my friends and colleagues about this crazy puzzle-friend I have who not once, but twice, flew into the wrong coast for a North American puzzle party and then cycled from Alaska to Ottawa and DC… Laurie was just one of those guys you meet once in a lifetime – the guy who drinks from the firehose of life and still wants more.

At the service this morning there were some familiar stories (picture a group of submariners yelling "Blindfold the duck!") and comments that we immediately recognised as being spot-on descriptions of Laurie ("the red pom-pom's attached to the yellow pom-pom, and the yellow pom-pom's attached to the...") … and then there were the stories we hadn’t even heard (singing Drake's Drum in the main cabin of HMS Victory!) that made some of us realise there were so many more facets to Laurie that we hadn’t even known about… he truly was a giant among men – literally and figuratively.

We're going to miss our puzzling friend – lots of hugs to Ethel and all the Primes. 

Love Allard & Gill

Monday, 14 August 2017

Doing good stuff...

We interrupt this IPP37 broadcast to bring you news of a puzzler wanting to do something good for charity!

Matt is an American puzzling mate of mine who likes to do nice things for people every now and then... for the past couple of years he's commissioned a unique puzzle gift and then given most of them away... and sometimes donated them to a charity auction. 

He's hoping to raise some money for a good cause by asking people to donate to Tony's Place in Houston, and then doing a random drawing from those donating and offering them one of his puzzle gifts: 

 - in 2016, it was the Texas Coin Puzzle from MINE,
 - in 2017, he was gifting a 3-coin puzzle from Robrecht Louage, 
... and next year he's planning to give away copies of Shiro Tajima's "In a cage" puzzle.

I'm lucky enough to own a copy of the first two and got to play with the third in this year's Design Competition at IPP37 (where it received a Jury Honourable Mention Award!) - they are all terrific puzzles... why not do something good by donating to Tony's Place and give yourself a chance at bagging a great puzzle too?

[Pics all courtesy of Matt.] 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

IPP37 Part 1 – Tuesday and Wednesday

Our flight into Charles de Gaulle on Tuesday was relatively dull and boring – the best sort of flight – and the short cab ride got us straight to our hotel on the left bank – or Rive Gauche if you want to sound like a local… at the hotel we immediately find our recent visitors to Barnt Green lurking in the lobby along with Nick, Peter and Lesley…

We check in and unpack before heading down to catch up with everyone, grab a bite to eat and a coffee at the Starbucks in the lobby – Otis is going to like this place! I catch up on Saul’s news (he’s had some lovely young lady jumping on his chest apparently, but he’s doing a lot better now and is certainly a lot more chipper than the last time we’d been in Paris together – his heart now beating at a good pace). 

Gill and I end up in the organisers’ office stuffing welcome packs with brochures and maps (mainly in the puzzlers’ chosen language, but we decided that some of them really should learn a new language and gave them some help) and helping to sort out the t-shirts that had helpfully been rammed randomly into boxes by the suppliers.

We catch up with the gang about an hour after we were supposed at L’Alouette – we’d eaten there in March and were looking forward to going back again as the grub is terrific! We order as soon as we arrive and somehow we get ours at the same time as the others who’ve been there for ages… I have a fantastic burger and John raves about his ravioli so I make a mental note to try that later in the week.  When we get the bill, Nick does the sums and announces what we owe… so we all chuck in and Judith gets thoroughly fleeced – we realise there’s something amiss when the last few people tot up the takings and find they don’t need to put anything into the pot… Susan checks the sums, corrects Nick’s error and we manage to split the bill fairly equitably. For a bunch of international puzzlers we seem to struggle with numbers!

We chat and puzzle in the lobby for a while after dinner – several of us try our hands at Markus’ three-layer maze and all manage to fail spectacularly… I decide it’s probably impossible. (Markus’ puzzles are never simple, but generally also not impossible…). I crash early knowing that Gill’s going to need to be up early to lead the Fabric & Fibre tour…

The alarm does indeed wake us early on Wednesday (and it’s painful, already). Breakfast in our own IPP dining room feels like a big reunion – getting to see friends from all around the world again.

After breakfast Gill and Paulette lead a tour of crafties around the stores they’ve chosen on the recce back in March – the first official IPP37 tour is underway and it feels like a bit of a milestone. (For the record, everyone seems to have a fab time with several people who were just going along for the chat buying a kit and learning a new craft because there was an expert in the group who wanted to teach them… it’s just that sort of group…)

Back in puzzle-world, a couple of us head downstairs in the hope of finding the Design Competition room open for business, instead we find Nick and Gary about to start setting it up for business, so we join in and soon enough have sixty-odd wonderful new designs all laid out and ready for puzzling. At that point we virtually have the room to ourselves and I reckon you can tell a lot by the puzzles that Neil, Peter and I each made a bee-line for. 

Pretty soon I was cursing Peter and my record for that first session was 0 for 4…

I met up with Lionel in the lobby and we introduced ourselves – I’d “met” him online through a puzzle forum and we’d chatted a bit so when I realised we’d be visiting his city I suggested we meet up for a chat and some puzzling and he offered to show us around some of the puzzle shops he knew in Paris… when he mentioned that he hadn’t seen any international puzzlers for around 15 years I decided to try and improve his batting average a little and told everyone I saw in the week or so beforehand, who’d be in Paris, that I was meeting Lionel on the Wednesday morning and we were going puzzle-hunting, feel free to join us…

There were 18 of us there to meet Lionel and wander around his city with him…that group included some serious puzzling royalty and later on back at the hotel I was able to introduce him to even more of my friends… I think we improved his average just a bit that day!

So eighteen of us hopped onto the Metro to the other end of town to visit Variantes, the main shop everyone wanted to get to with fears that the “good stuff” might be gone if we didn’t go there first… we needn’t have worried! Plenty of puzzle-shopping ensued as Wil had clearly stocked them up before our visit – when we were done we all posed outside the store with the assistants for a group photo.

From there we headed north to take some pics of the Notre Dame before searching for some Berthillon ice cream at Haym’s insistence… of course being August, the main outlet was closed, but several local suppliers were more than happy to fulfil all our desires. Wandering west in search of the Joker took us past the beautiful City Hall – heck even the rear of the building is stunning! The Joker turned out to be a bit disappointing as a puzzle store (but gosh it had plenty of games and the like!) and we were beginning to flag so we took over the rear half of a brasserie close to Tumbleweed -which was closed and where the owner has a tongue-in-cheek sign on the door explaining in English that she’s quite lazy now so the store is only open three days a week!. Lionel ended up treating some of us to lunch… merci, mon ami

From there we had a bit of a trek in the stunningly bright sunshine to find a Metro station to head out to Rouge et Noir… who stocked some interesting puzzles and a selection of stunningly beautiful handmade spinning tops… Neil bought a couple to add to his collection and left a very happy man.

We walked the roughly one mile back to the hotel, passing a really long queue for the catacombs near the hotel – it seems to be a hugely popular attraction!

Back at the hotel’s Starbucks I grabbed a coffee with Lionel to share a few puzzles with him and managed to introduce him to Gill and several more puzzlers who happened to wander by and say hello… his batting average improves further. 

After we say our goodbyes I chat to Gill about the super-successful Fabric and Fibre tour before we find the gang for dinner. A bunch of us find ourselves in a little Italian joint just around the corner from the hotel enjoying pizzas and more… there’s plenty of chat about a project that most of them have been involved in and lots of puzzles are being played with around the table… the waiting staff manage not to show too much interest in the puzzles. 

Back at the hotel I spot Wil and give him a jar of crunchy peanut butter that he’d enjoyed so much at our place when he visited earlier in the year… (it’s the little things…) then I head up to his room with a pile of cash and leave again a short while later with a couple of new puzzles including a great little puzzle box and a new assembly puzzle that JCC has made for him.

I hit the Design Competition room once again – this time with a little more success before collecting my crates of exchange puzzles that had arrived via a fellow puzzler's courier service… gawd those things are heavy – I’m going to need a sneaky plan to get them down into the exchange on Saturday without either doing my back in or ruining several pieces of luggage in the process…