Friday 28th: What a fabulous day to be travelling to such
a lovely location, although I found one village sign a bit bold,
so to speak - 'Ugley,
please drive carefully'…bit harsh that.
At Audley End House we were met by Kelly and Lucy
who showed us our pitch next to the rock stall. Actually our pitch
was currently next to a stuck trailer belonging to 'Mr.
Alexander's Travelling Show', not only had Mr. Alexander
got into a rut but he also had a flat tyre into the bargain.
While we waited for our area to become useable I went over to
the rock stall, actually we had met John and Alex
before at Clivedon,
when I mentioned this John made swimming motions, no doubt a fond
recollection of that event! I had brought a small specimen on that
aqueous day but I could not recall the name and we went through
a whole list of stones in the vain hope of identifying it without
success (for the record, it was Bustamite).
My curious eye took in a nice lump of Labradorite;
Alex said I should take it out into the sun to admire its 'chatoyancy'.
I must say that for a guy who knows a lot of long words I had real
problems with that one - I kept saying chatosity! Anyway, once out
in the late afternoon sun the chatoyant labradorescence of that
polished pebble came out like a magic rainbow. I resisted the temptation
to buy it and put it back.
Once the trailer was clear we introduced ourselves to David
(Mr. Alexander), Hilary and Mimi, their Bichon
frise, an energetic, friendly little dog with a cute factor
of 10 who probably rescued inquisitive kids trapped in old mines
in her spare time…who needs a big dog named after a yogurt
Once home was set up we settled down and prepared our evening
meal, I was so taken by the stew that we had in Belgium that
I made a huge pot of it, and while we ate we watched David
set up his amazing mechanical stage.
Saturday 29th: It was a fine morning and after breakfast
Prof and Mrs. Grymm went for a stroll. There is a
wonderful horse chestnut with limbs that sweep down to the ground
not far from us and we had a look at that as we made our way up
to the folly. We were outflanked by a group of grazing Canada geese
which had a couple of barnacle geese in tow. At the folly we looked
back over the grounds of Audley House, what a view. I could
see Dr Tooms ambling about but there was something about
him I could not quite put my finger on. When we got back I realised
that he had new clothes on; a boater and a rather fetching striped
blazer, no wonder he looked 'odd', I had never seen him wear so
It was time to get the show on the road and once everything was
set up…it started to drizzle…hang on we've been in this movie before...
One of my first visitors cheekily asked me about the flimsy, web-like
stuff covering my display. "It's ectoplasm,
madam; we have a medium contact who coughs it up for us every time
It was soon raining in earnest, and just about every where else,
with one department out of action and another mostly not on show
I persevered, tucking my hand under the sheeting and bringing forth
wondrous objects from around the world…the show must go on! And,
while the show went on Dr Tooms escorted Mrs. Grymm
to partake of a Punch
& Judy Show.
During a rather brief lull in which the sun vaguely came out Mr.
Alexander, having spent most of the morning sweeping buckets
of water from the stage, managed to get in a show that lasted about
5 minutes. He was then driven into town by Dr Tooms to get
a new tyre. By mid afternoon Mrs. Grymm had retired to her
tent and Dr. Tooms sat dejected in his chair like a passenger on
the 'Titanic' waiting for the icy sea to put him out of his
misery. I carried on as best as possible, my 'unicorn' had punched
a hole in the ectoplasm and, by a twist in the giblets of life,
the damage was directly over my photos which buckled and dissolved…ho
I gave up in the end and the good doctor, having come back to
life, joined me to watch the band. The
Essex Yeomanry Band had been going backwards and forwards
all day and must have been soaked through. We stood outside the
tent but they invited us in, I took them up on the offer and sat
at the back where I got to watch the conductor doing lots of magical
motions with his hands. I could also see their music sheets so could
work out what they were playing starting with the theme from 'The
Great Escape' one of my favourite movies, they went on to play
Busters', 'My Fair Lady' - not a favourite - in fact
I would describe it as the most laborious and tedious musical since
the invention of vocal chords, and on to 'Cream of Clapton'…having
been through Clapton I couldn't work out why someone would write
songs about it…oh, that Clapton…come
on, I was damp and tired…
As the band finished, they were fantastic by the way, the sun
came out in a sort of mocking finale to the day. At least we would
have a pleasant evening meal…but, as the remainder of the stew was
served the heavens opened up so we sat huddled and hooded over our
bowls like the Three
Fates in search of a lost tooth. Alex suddenly appeared
and invited us into their tent where we had a very enjoyable evening
chatting about every thing from Homer to putting the world
Sunday 30th: I woke up early and took a peak out of the
tent; it was dry out there so I set off for a bit of meandering
solitude. I sat under the horse chestnut and walked around past
the waterfall, to the house and back to the tents where I set up
Bit different today, we were very busy early on. It was so great
to be in full flow with such a good crowd. We also got to see Mr.
Alexander do his show; juggling, balancing stuff and riding
his unicycle. A word on that balancing stuff; on the stage, on a
plank on a chair high above the crowds- the sort of thing I would
only do in some sort of delirium! Fantastic! The good thing about
being so close was we got to watch him and take a break. There was
one hairy moment in an afternoon show when the wind took a chair
from the end of the plank leaving David in a bit of a fix, keeping
his cool he got one of the crowd to pass the chair up to him, making
sure that the plank was not touched, and the show continued as before.
Toward the end of the afternoon I met a young man who knew a lot
of stuff! He recognised, and had vast amounts of knowledge, about
quite a few of my exhibits. I spent quite a while with him swapping
stories and sparring bits of useless information. I like to encourage
people like him, I started out from scratch when I was a kid and
had no access to the sort of eccentricity that is now my collection.
Young 'Jack's' mother may have had some understandable doubts
about my encouragement - I warned her that if he continues on his
present course with that much enthusiasm he will end up like me!!!
I told 'Jack' about some of my future projects and he went so far
as to suggest a pig
faced woman - now there is a future showman of some calibre!!
For those not in the know, a pig faced woman was a bear with its
face shaved and wearing a dress. I suspect that the first showman
to come up with this crazy idea may not have survived long enough
to make a fortune!!
During one of my breaks I was drawn back to the rock shop and
that beautiful bit of labradorite, in the shade it is mostly grey
but I had seen its wonderful secret and finally caved in…it's mine
Well, we had some fantastic, if somewhat windy, weather, during
the afternoon one of those sneaky gusts of wind grabbed my great
auk photo and sent if whipping across the crowd, a gentleman, unharmed
by the world's first flying ninja great auk, returned it. Amongst
my more unusual visitors were a couple who, while snorkelling, had
both had encounters with large barracudas. I once nearly swam into
a small one, about 40 cm; I saw it just in time, as it floated close
to me in a Zen-like ambushing trance. The scariest part of that
encounter was when several other curious swimmers surrounded the
fish, seeing all those legs in such shallow water got it rather
agitated and I quickly got out of its way and it shot past me to
safety. I was asked by one lady if they bite, my answer was, "Imagine
a torpedo with a face full of razorblades!"
We spent the evening around our little fire with David,
Alex and John. No doubt we put the world to rights
Monday 31st: A look at the world this morning showed it
to be mostly grey again. Once I had set up my display Hilary
filmed me talking about Charles Waterton, I don't like talking
to cameras at best and about half way through I lost my place in
the talk but managed to salvage it. Glad that was over…phew!
There was not a lot going on so we set off up to the house while
Dr Tooms held the fort, we met Lord Babenbrook and
his gamekeeper on the way, I told him I would check out the
collection to see if I could add to it! What an awesome place Audley
House is, we rarely get to see the inside of these wonderful
old houses. One can't help but get taken aback by the sheer number
of stuffed birds in cases. One of the first specimens I noticed
were a pair of resplendent
quetzals displayed in a tall glass dome to allow room for
the male's long tail feathers, feathers that were once used by Aztecs,
Mayans and other Central American tribes. I set out
to see if they had a particular species and eventually found it
in case 11, a single passenger pigeon, I had never seen one
in a private collection before and if I had had my thinking hat
on instead of my pith helmet I would have looked around to see if
they had a pair of huias. I talked to John, one of
the guides who told me that the collection had been compiled by
two brothers from mail order taxidermists - it must have cost a
vast amount of money.
Katharine Hill, who had photographed us at Petersfield,
turned up and spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of us; perhaps
I'm going to be Mr. October for the Eccentric
While Dr. Tooms was giving a talk about the Pulsocon
to two ladies, one of them gave a little giggle and revealed that
she was a sex therapist - we certainly meet some interesting people
at these shows. Another visitor asked if there was a connection
between Phinias Gage's change of personality after his accident
and the dual personalities of 'Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'.
We were very busy throughout the afternoon and one of my last
visitors was a young lady who must have gone to the same school
of young eccentrics as 'Jack'. Unlike him she was already
into collecting and showed me several specimens that she had brought
from the gem shop. She was very interesting to talk to and, again,
very knowledgeable, every now and then she would wander off and
return with a newly acquired specimen.
It was suddenly time to pack and we got ourselves sorted for our
return home. I would just like to extend our thanks to Alex
and John of Greenland
& Game Gems for their hospitality and David and Hilary
for their company. As we drove off Mimi looked at us and
using that form of telepathy only found in heroic dogs told me that
the rescued kids were fine and currently tucking into an assortment
of unhealthy foodstuffs full of e-numbers and artery clogging fats!
This is Prof. Grymm, reminding you to look at the chatoyancy