Tuesday, 14 May 2013

MPP 10.5

Yikes - I knew I hadn't blogged for a while, but I hadn't realised that it had been almost a month since my last post... I am well and truly shamed! Let me try and remedy that with a steady stream of drivel(!) and perhaps the usual service will resume again at some point...

The pedants out there will immediately recognise from the title that I've skipped a gathering or two - I'm probably going to write about my recent experiences in reverse chronological order - not just to confuse the pedants, but in order to improve my chances of remembering at least some of the stories ... although it'll probably end up meaning that by the time I write about MPP 10, I won't have remembered very much at all... but at least I'll show you some pictures from it!

OK, back to this post ... fellow blogger and good puzzle mate from across the ocean, Neil-The-Juggler-Hutchison got in touch a little while back and let me know he'd be coming to the UK on business and wondered if he could swing by my place on the way up to Scotland. I told him that would be a cracking idea and offered to round up some of the locals for some get-togethers... and after I'd checked that that hadn't put him off the idea totally, I put up a note on the Midlands Puzzle Party Facebook page offering a puzzle barbecue at my place on the Sunday (the plan was to barbecue some meat, not puzzles!). Soon enough a bunch of people had said they'd be interested so we firmed up the plans for the Sunday and then I organised a slighter lower key get together for the Saturday...

So last Saturday morning Neil flew into Birmingham and picked up a rental car and duly arrived at my place just after 8am ... I was already up and about having just dispatched Gill and her family on week-long cruise in the Eastern Med. 

Neil and I caught up a bit over some coffee before heading out to Henley (-in-Arden, not -on-Thames!) to meet Chris and Nigel at the ice cream shop for more coffee and some puzzling. I gave Nigel the puzzles I'd brought over for him from Wil and he duly dished some of them out to Chris and Neil ... we spent a couple of hours playing with various things we'd each brought along and Nigel had a grand old time playing with Neil's prototype Juggling Cylinder ... that much to his own surprise he ended up solving and dropping a ball bearing on the tiled floor - where we all heard it bounce, but couldn't find it despite all of us peering around intently, much to the amusement of some of the other patrons!

At lunchtime we decamped to a nearby pub for a great lunch accompanied by a couple of Sloyd puzzles that I'd brought out... we all agreed on the solution for the classic nail puzzle (even though a couple of style variations were noted!) and to my great shame I only noticed when I was packing it away that, under the base, Tomas had branded a personalised message: "Allard - Happy Puzzling - Tomas" - Thanks Tomas ... I almost missed that!

We did not solve High H, however... Lunch was excellent and we broke up at the appropriate time so that Nigel could go off and watch some or other soccer game(?). 

Neil and I puzzled and chilled back at my place and then next morning we prepared for the onslaught... which started with the first arrival just after ten in the morning and finished when the last bloke left at ten that evening... but what a day!

I managed to keep up with the first few folks arriving and set them up with some coffee and we'd sit in the study (puzzle room!) until the next person arrived... at some point I began to notice the puzzle room getting a bit full, but that didn't seem to stop them cramming themselves in there! I swear I could see nine people and a dog in there at one point ... so I did the obvious thing and opened a window... well, I wasn't going to get them out of there, was I?

Soon enough there really were too many people to all fit in the study and they began spilling down stairs into the lounge and the dining room, all clutching puzzles - good sign! Nigel set himself up out on the deck where the hounds wouldn't bother him too much and he was soon joined by Ali, Joe and Kevin for a little puzzlin' al fresco ... which lasted an hour or two until the rain arrived (sorry Nigel!). 

Kevin had brought his recent Mr Puzzle limited edition acquisitions along for all to have a go at and they looked rather handsome ... and he was quite chuffed with a couple of puzzles that Neil had brought over for him from Derek ... hopefully we'll be reading about those on his blog in due course...

During the course of the day several folks had a bash at the Juggling Cylinder and without fail, everyone thought it was terrific - it was great having Neil explain the thought behind the various features and explaining just how hard it is when it's fully locked up and somebody hasn't lost one of the ball bearings... in fact he admitted to taking an hour to open it recently after he lost track of one or two important little facts along the way... now if only we can talk someone into producing them... 

Neil had also brought over a Revo-sleeve he'd made up in olive wood so I did a Louis on him (there's a story from MPP 10 that I should remember to tell you!) and duly locked a Coolen-special core into it ... and I locked another into an Obsession sleeve for him to take back to Derek... fair's fair!

It was really great to see Sophie and Louise (Adin and Russ' better halves) having a bash at (and solving!) so many Karakuri boxes ... maybe Karakuri's are a girl's best friend? 

Somewhere around midday it started raining, just about as I had to start braaiing - typical! So I ended up braaiing English-style: under an umbrella in the rain... despite that, the grub wasn't too bad - I ended up burning it a bit more than I'd meant to, but it was still hoovered up quite well. In fact in the end we nearly finished all of the meat (almost unheard of at a South African's braai!) although there was plenty of coleslaw and salad left (pretty typical for a South African braai!) - and the ice cream and chocolate sauce seemed to go down well afterwards...

Somewhere around lunchtime Simon Nightingale appeared bearing several of his graded Corian block ball mazes - quite a treat for most of us who've never seen them before ... and I was rather stunned when he gave me one just for having had him over - Thank you Simon! (and by the way the four balls are still firmly implanted inside the block at the moment... I will get them out though! One day...) 

Steve Nicholls had brought a huge selection of his 3D printed puzzles along and insisted on giving just about everyone some puzzles ... thanks Steve!

Neil had brought several puzzles over fresh from Juggler-Central's main workshop and I think he ended up finding good homes for them all ... and I can personally vouch for several of them although I still haven't had a chance to play around with most of them... having too many puzzles to play with at one point in time can be a curse! (Nah, not really...) 

Folks began drifting homewards somewhere around sunset, or rather drifting somewhere more or less homewards if their phone-cum-sat-nav happened to die on them, eh Jamie? and by the end of the night Chris, Neil and I were sat at my dining room table trying in vain to assemble my copy of Six of Diamonds ... Chris had assembled his months ago and I had failed miserably at it (even with Louis' help!!) ... so having Neil and Chris here, I jumped at my chance to see if they could do it between them ... and despite using Chris' assembled copy as a model, my copy remains in its now standard 5-piece-assembly-with-one-piece-on-the-table ... one day I'll get that thing together...

When everyone had left I was pretty wiped out and Neil was still keen for some more puzzling so I left him in the study with the Stickman Checkmate Box and my Triple Locked Box ... and when I got up in the morning they were both open in their solved positions on my desk... and Neil was a happy solver...

That was quite an incredible weekend - I felt exhausted afterwards - but had a really great time catching up with Neil and then getting to introduce him to a bunch of my local puzzling mates - thanks for dropping in Neil, it was great having you around... let's do it again next year ;-)


  1. Had a fantastic time Allard - thanks very much. Unfortunately you have given me more ideas for future purchases!

    If Karakuris are a girl's best friend then that might be a good thing for me. They are cheaper than Mulberrys and are lovely puzzles. Oh, can you come over and suggest it to the present Mrs S? I am a bit too frightened to say anything - the laser stare will get me........ Again!

  2. No,no, no, you're way off with that assumption... DIAMONDS are a girl's best friend. There's even a song about it ;-)
    Sorry I missed the party!