Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight (English Heritage) 23 to 25 August



Friday: Grymm Tooms was finally going abroad and we were all very excited. The journey down went without incident although it did come close to having at least two: Laz thought that we were getting an earlier ferry and that it was from Portsmouth…When we got to Southampton to pick up the ferry to Cowes we were confronted by an amazing sight – hundreds of brightly coloured moped type bikes, some adorned with fox tails and others with enough mirrors to keep a solar power station going for years.

As we waited our turn to get to the ferry a man was going around giving out bags of stuff to do, when he got to us he told us that there was an event at Carisbrooke Castle

When we disembarked at Cowes great fleets of mopeds revved and chugged away filling the air with thick grey foul smelling fumes – IOW’s carbon footprint went through the roof in about 3 minutes!

Alysha met us at the castle and we headed for the Bowling Green, where Charles the First (whose parrot resides with me) played bowls while his bowels, no doubt wobbled, at the thought of decapitation. I can think of better ways to amuse myself in my last days than chucking lumps of wood about.



It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon full of twittering hirundines, and the calls of wood pigeon and stock doves, rather idyllic really. While our homes were getting sorted I set about repairing our dress tent, sealing the patch on the side with latex moulding rubber. Once everything was sorted we set about erecting our flag. Dr Tooms had designed this, amazing what you can do with 3 broom handles, some rope stuff and a computer. The flag bears our logo of mermaid, skeleton and well dressed lady and since the mermaid was now rather large it was decided, purely for Victorian modesty of course, to ‘clothe’ her too. Unfortunately Tooms only put scallop shells on one side and in a high wind she flaps about in such a manner as to be a flashing mermaid thus chucking Victorian Modesty to the four directions!

(Roll your mouse over the image on the right to get an idea of what it looked like!)



We walked about the grounds, found the Rat Catchers spot, rather cool one, next to a lovely yew tree and they were sheltered by a wall. The chapel has an interesting history being founded in 1070, rebuilt in 1738 only to be dismantled in 1856(why?) and since we were the only post 1800 group this means we should have been looking at a hole in the ground. It was finally reconstructed in 1904…again: why?

It was great to be able to visit the other folks as we were mere feet way from them and in the evening we ambled over to the Pelican-in-her-Piety (Jules, Aidan and AJ) for a social, what a great evening. We had met Wel and Karen at Gunpowder Mills a couple of times, and apart from Eric and Val we had only met a couple of the others in passing at Dover.

While I heated water for Longstreet the hot water bottle I could hear some rather bizarre comments coming across the green from the Pelican camp, they seemed to revolve around Viagra and trebuchets ( I won't go into detail) and mostly coming from Aidan who can pluck innuendo out of the ether with considerable speed and eloquence.

We had a great time chatting about all sorts of stuff although one of the favourites was “things that people ask”, as you know I try to grab a weekend quote so this was a subject that interest me.

It was a clear night and the stars were fantastic to behold, in fact us townies were most impressed since we can just about see Orion these days…some villain stole our stars!!

Saturday: As I headed for my ablutions I could not help but notice the line of black birds along atop one wall, all neatly arranged in order of size; starlings, jackdaws and crows…waiting…watching…their little avian brains thinking about taking over the world…but I digress….

After breakfast Janet and I walked along the castle walls, this is quite an achievement for me as I don’t do edges very well, in fact at one point I almost gave up as there is a narrow walkway with low railings and wall and an exciting drop on either side. In the end I took my boots off and finished the walk in bare feet. It was well worth the effort the views are amazing up there.

Returning to the green, we sorted out our museum and soon the visitors started arriving, watched over by a couple of buzzards. One of the really good things about this little show is that we were all time slotted to do our main bit so the crowds ambled from one display to another. I managed to overhear enough of Wel’s talk of grisly medieval ‘justice’ to make a mental note not to apply for the incarnation form for that period. From there the visitors went to John the Hangman who dealt out further justice to anyone who had survived Ordeals by Fire, Water, Stocks or Pillory…they even put pigs 'n' cockerels on trial!!

Then it was our turn, we had some fantastic crowds who were a real pleasure to talk to. From us they moved on to Steve the 18th Century surgeon and then had the pleasure of the Singing Plague Victims; the long nosed scabby pair did a great show just next to us, little did we know that within seconds Milly Molly Manky’s ‘My Young Man’ song had burrowed into our brains and would play repeatedly whenever there was a quiet moment!!

Between shows I went over to talk to the Pelicans and chatted with Jules, who had some interesting grub which included white carrots and something that looked mostly like the sort of thing that you chuck away but was, in fact, a variety of parsnip, the name of which I can’t remember but sounded vaguely like sk’rit. Jules also donated a couple of eggs, one of which is the smallest chicken egg that I have ever seen being just under 2 inches in length…or approximately 4.5cm, not exactly omelette material!

Once the public had gone we chilled out while Eve and Steve set up tables and food in the middle of the green for a party to celebrate their anniversary. This was a great little do; I even got to talk to the real Nostrildamus and Milly. Laz and I had pondered on the idea of doing a magic lantern show and in the end put it to our hosts…and so our first lantern show abroad came into being.

We were going to use the shop tent but it was too shiny, it was then suggested that we use the toilet display at the Pelicans. So we set up our lantern overlooking a replica medieval bog under which rested some rather excellent hand made turds and projected on a screen behind which was a huge pile of donkey poo made by real donkey bottoms. We did ‘Birds and Their Nests’ which we should probably turn into a therapy lesson...”So tell me…what you see? Mmm…The nest of the weaver or something more erroneous perhaps…” I’m always impressed by what folks see. We also did ‘The Tooms that Time Forgot and the Crystal Skull’ and due to a possible Illuminati conspiracy we did not have the special effects slides and part of the story was missing…our audience just could not have handled the dark truth. It was rather odd and afterwards Val said she could not work out what was going on…I’m not so sure that I did come to think on it.

Talking of odd, Aidan told us about the sort of magazines that he used to edit, coming from him; I did not expect such titles as ‘Ambulance Monthly’ and ‘Fire Engine!’ with an exclusive supplement of ‘What Car was that before Immolation?

What really amazed us was that they had a bath tub and a water heater in their tent! The luxury that some folks re-enact in, eh!?

We had all worked very hard and went to bed replete on grub, beer and success…

Sunday: …and then we woke up to a grey, windy, drizzling morning where the only bit that existed was Carisbrooke, the rest of the island was out there somewhere in the haze. Into this damp world emerged a bunch of people who would rather have been in the Bahamas, there was even a hint of rebellion as we tried to work out how we were going to do things, the museum for starters was a non runner. We considered taking over the goods tent, we had enough weapons between us. We watched as the wind sent the fine drizzle in every direction, which, at least, explained why just about everything had got soaked.

As Jules, AJ and Aiden bailed out the Pelican patch Eve spotted a punnit of cherry tomatoes secreted amongst the vegetables; they were quickly removed to the future. Despondent cheese sticks and bits of food soggy beyond recognition lay on the tables, the “I Love You” spelled out in sugar letters had dissolved under the impact of the Drizzle Gods. There is something almost heartbreaking when you spy a bowl filled to the brim with rainwater at the bottom of which lay the sad drowned bodies of peanuts and raisins.

I found a female Great Green Bush-cricket (Tettigonia viridissima) perched on one of our poles and we all stood around admiring the critter, she probably did not appreciate the delicate, artistically arranged water droplets on her body and her mandibles were probably miming “Do you know where my towel is?”

John the Hangman went to listen to the ‘Archers Omnibus’ while Janet and I, both hooded in robe-like garments, wandered about like lost Jedi. I suggested that we stand at the gate and turn people away by saying “This is not the event you are looking for” complete with hand flourish. But…the show must go on! Two Thirds of Grymm Tooms went to the education Centre which we were to share with The Rat Catchers and Medieval Crime & Punishment.

It didn’t really work for us; Laz and I were at the back and people were obviously afraid to come into the room. Eric did manage to do his talk but his traps worked in slow motion due to the damp. No doubt pesky rodents were celebrating in sewers everywhere!

The best bit about that little room, apart from the fact that I seemed to have trouble finding the door, was that people had to come right in to see our specimens. One lady with her daughter was eager to see the mermaid and when I held up the crawling critter the look on her face must have been similar to so many folks a hundred years ago when they walked into a dingy tent to see a mummified monkey instead of ‘Miss Atlantis 1897’

As the sun came out, Wel decided that he would go back to the green and by the time that our lunch arrived we too had decided to take the risk. So once again our boxes were ferried back to the green in the ATV. There were people out there, we had seen a tiny percentage and it was just as well that we had decided to return to camp as by early afternoon the sun had come out and the crowds were as keen as ever.

In an ever so slightly déjà vu moment I met a group of people from Ecuador who spotted the shrunken head, so I introduced them to Charlie. When they asked me if it was real I showed them the inside and they were convinced that Charlie was, indeed a real tsantsa. Making the thing out of leather had paid off, and I also told them it was the remains of my old boss.

There was another visitor who was somewhat captivated by the curios, this was young Max who stayed around for quite some time and probably memorised most of what I had to say. I passed on book titles, collecting and model making techniques, he was as eager for knowledge as I was at his age.

It had been a hard day and after dinner we all gathered at the Pelicans. Earlier in the day I had spotted AJ pour a pile of donkey droppings onto their fire grid, I had not thought much of it at the time but now it became evident that he was going to burn it as they had no coals. AJ worked at the fire for ages, while it is a well known fact that herbivore droppings are used for fires, it is also a well know fact that fresh, damp turds do not burn, no matter how much air is bellowed into them. The end result was thick pungent smoke that the wind threw at us from every direction until we were all thoroughly kippered through. AJ had worked so long and hard at getting that fire going that by the time he gave up the stars had come out.

Monday: I had an odd taste in my mouth when I woke up this morning and tried to ignore the fact that it may have been a result of exposure to smoking donkey poo…nice. And then when we opened up the cool box the A frame filled with the scent of Camembert, probably not the best choice of cheese in a confined space, especially taking into consideration that I like it when it is old enough to vote and sending out pseudopods in search of prey. And why was my brain singing “My Young Man” in such a raucous fashion?

Obviously my request about a dry and calm event went unheeded by whatever beings control the weather, but it was different from yesterday…there was more wind for a start and we had to put away the optics, good thing too as half way through the day a gust flipped both of the tables over.

While I was giving my first talk it started to drizzle, I persevered but in the end I had to cover my stuff up, calling the plastic sheet ectoplasm went down very well with the crowds but I would have preferred a dry day.

It brightened up about lunch time and as we set our food out I was asked a rather odd question: “Are you going to eat those pork pies?” since they were not Sweeney Todd Specials then the answer is “yes”…do I get a prize?

I was not going to be beaten by the elements, I was sick of holding my tables down against the wind and in the end I uncovered my display for the afternoon talk. I had again, got a good crowd and decided to try something with my talk on fakes. I asked how many of them had ever seen a platypus, as it quite obviously could not exist. They all put there hands up…”OK how many of you have seen a live one…not on TV?” One hand remained, out of all those people only one boy could prove that such an oddity existed. I was using this in context with the fact that the critter was once believed to be a fabrication. And, for the record, I too have not seen a living platypus.

During this talk was one of those amazing kids I meet, she was into dinosaurs and told me that she liked the pterosaurs, so I showed her the cast I have of Pterodactylus elegans, which may well be the smallest of the group ever.

The wind had scattered labels all over the place and had also dismantled my original copy of Waterton’s ‘Wanderings in South America’, one portion of which was found about 30 feet away.

While I was taking a break, I watched the tosher give his talk about finding things in poo (do I detect a theme…?). And then I bumped into Max and his family, got thanked for being patient with him and had my picture taken. And then it was off to pack up. All went smoothly until we took our flag down and could not get the sections apart due to water soaked wood getting all clingy and emotional on us…we had to break the poor thing up in the end.

WOW! What a weekend! Great company, thanks for everyone and Happy Anniversaries to Steve & Eve and Wel & Karen

This is Prof. Grymm in search of interesting root vegetables such as the skirret (Sium Sisarum).