Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Battle Abbey (English Heritage) 22 & 23 August



Friday: The last time we came to Battle was a few years back to watch a re-enactment of the 1066 battle, we had gone down in the ‘John Bell Hood’, Laz’s old people carrier that had been named thus not simply to honour the famous General but also because it broke down so many times it had cost him an arm and a leg, as the old saying goes.

When we arrived at the Abbey gates, Laz called our contact: “Hi Tom, we are outside the castle”. Tom hoped that we had not driven to some random castle in another part of the country. Slight confusion over, we got in and wormed our way along the footpath to our spot, which as it later turned out was not far from the monument to Harold. We were also with the same bunch of wonderful people we had met at Carisbrook Castle last year, although, for some odd reason, Eric & Val, the rat people, were quite a way off.

Part of our evening meal included cucumber sandwiches; these had been obsessively made by Dr Tooms. I always thought that all you did was slap a few slices of limp ‘cumber into a couple of slices of bread. “It’s a bit more complicated than that”, said Dr Tooms during an exclusive interview, “It’s the British equivalent of sushi!” I dare say it is, but de-crusting slightly stale bread and patting dry the filling is not likely to replace salmon eggs or succulent tuna.

The raspberry jelly that followed put up a hell of a fight to get out of the mould, it hung in there like a limpet with attitude but, when it was finally persuaded to emerge, it ended up looking like a critter that had gone through a jet engine…still it was rather yummy. There was a bit of a breeze blowing this evening and we hoped that it would die off for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday started warm and with something approaching a certain oddness; Eve had bought a couple of monster prawns that could have starred in a ‘50s B-Movies…man those bugs were big! This arthropod episode was followed with a conversation with Jules about making fake turds for the Pelicans display; apparently there is a website out there that explains the ingredients to make historical poo…how quaint!

And so the show started, we were billed to do two shows but when The Hangman finished the crowd dispersed…hang on what about us? Don’t go away, we’re open…look we’ve gotta mermaid! We managed to get half a dozen somewhat disinterested folks who stood too far off for us to properly interact with them. Still we tried and almost died in the process…we were getting nothing back from these people, it was like talking in a vacuum and I just wanted it all to end and for me to crawl into a duck mole’s burrow!

The afternoon crowd was much better; we ditched the idea of sticking to a schedule as it does not work very well for us since we often rely on what the public want us to talk about. While I was taking about the cannibal fork I noticed one well muscled gentleman with some rather interesting tattoos. There I was jabbering about Pacific Islanders cooking each other, having already, all too late, recognised the designs as Polynesian in origin. Was I heading for another duck mole moment? Thankfully not and he told me that he was from Tahiti and I had a really nice chat with him and his family, recalling that I once met a couple of very nice ladies from Fiji who had been very impressed that their country was being talked about at Detling of all places.

We had, sort of, made plans for a lantern show and as the day progressed we were asked if we were going to do one…evidently there was no choice in the matter. Why do we do this? It invariably goes wrong no matter how hard we try to get it right and tonight was no exception. During a glitch I ended up talking about the remarkable Emperor Norton I of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico. And then something even worse than a glitch happened…they all wanted ‘Birds & Their Nests’!!

Having run the gauntlet of The Birds we settled down for a nice social in which copious amounts of ale mingled and co-habited with quite a bit of wine…it was during all this that we discovered a common interest, apart from re-enactment, with Wel and Karen – they are gamers so we all enthused about H P Lovecraft, Wings of War and various board games before finally calling it a day.

Sunday…early…hot….horrid buzzing sound. I soon realised that the sound was not coming from my wine addled head but from a wasp that snuck into my tent and was now checking out my face! It was far too early to be chasing bugs around an A-Frame so I sort of ignored it until it lost interest and left through the tent flap.

I had an option for dress today, I could go light tropical but I did that yesterday so I went full colonial, knowing that it was going to be a hot, still day…it just had to be done. One of my first visitors was a young man with lots of questions and no interest or attention span…why me? “Because you’re here” came a little voice in my head. Thankfully he was dragged off to face Wel the Sheriff and eventual dismemberment at the hands of John the Hangman, via blood letting and amputation from Steve the Surgeon.

Things brightened up when a very nice young lady made quite a detour to get to me and ask if I did that song from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, presumably the one with Lionel Jeffries…and not that awful pseudo-Cockney drivel by the other guy!

Gosh it was hot…and it got hotter and yet despite heat, flies and the deadly darts of indifference, we ended up with a really great crowd who listened and interacted well. And, because of our proximity to the other performers we got to hear what they had to say. I managed to last until about 3 pm and then decided that I had done enough for mad dogs and Englishmen and took my heavy frock coat off.

I took a breather and listened to Aidan talking poo about poo at the Pelican’s latrine and then after a final burst of eager folks it was time to pack up and go home. What an excellent weekend it had been and like the witches in that Play we will all meet again next year and do…Birds and their nests!!! All the best to you all and many thanks to Tom for looking after us.

This is Prof. Grymm, hotter than dragon guano inna pith hat!