Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Chiltern Open Air Museum 21st - 22nd August 2010



Sunday: We arrived at the museum nice and early, having taken a bit of a roundabout trip to avoid Central London which was mostly closed off because of the River Pageant taking place to mark HRH Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee. There was one of those fine drizzles that saturated the air without actually raining and, I must say that the last place I would want to be today would be on a boat in the middle of Old Father Thames.

We were met by Sue who let us into the vicarage and after some shuffling of seating we set up and waited for those people not heading for London, or sitting in front of a telly, to turn up and talk to us. Sue told us that we would be having a Royal visit ourselves later from Queen Victoria. Apart from us, the only other group were members of The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, who amazingly enough, actually look the right age instead of grizzled old window sales folk pretending to be 20 year old soldiers, which is often the norm.

Time dragged and the drizzle continued throughout the morning and since no one was around, Tooms bought out his petanque set and we had a go at playing. This is a very simple game; chuck a heavy metal ball at a small wooden one, the closest ball to the jack wins and the first to get 13 points is the winner. We added a house rule of an extra point if the jack got hit – I got rather good at that.

We were told that Queen Victoria would be turning up later in the day with her private secretary Sir Arthur Bigge as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. When her Majesty finally turned up, we were surprised to find that she bore a remarkable resemblance to Jane from Hands on History! In the afternoon Queen Victoria held audience but even the woman who made the world map mostly pink couldn’t draw in the crowds today.

Once everyone was gone we settled down for the evening, which continued to be mostly damp. Thankfully the stove in the vicarage was lit for us, this not only provided warmth but also something to heat our food. We were later joined by the Surreys who were either under canvas or sleeping in the big barn that, when I checked earlier, had enough drafty holes and chinks to keep Pyramus and Phesbe happy for years! By the time that we were snug in our beds that persistent drizzle had turned into a cold rain.

Monday: Well, by some amazing weather magic the morning was sunny and once the site opened to the public we had a steady stream of visitors throughout much of the day. Grace came round to see our, now possibly world famous, collection. While we poured knowledge into the heads of attentive youngsters one lad had other ideas. While talking to Dr Tooms this young chap had something of a coconut fixation, remarking that you can’t eat coconuts no matter what subject was being covered – lotus shoes, it seems, are not made from coconuts!

In the afternoon Queen Victoria arrived to judge the kids talent at cake and doll making and poetry and award prizes for the best ones. I must say, I have something of a phobia for brightly coloured icing sugar, it puts my teeth on edge just looking at it. It was rather amusing to see kids in awe of such royalty and those who forgot to curtsy were quickly reminded.

After the show Dr Tooms dropped Cassandra off at the nearest station and when he returned we introduced the Surreys to the noble game of petanque. We played until it was too dark to see the jack and then retired to the fire. It was a clear night but I could not help noticing that the temperature was dropping rapidly and we could see our breath – I don’t know what the temperature was but it did not feel like June and any attempts to introduce the Surreys to the chirruping of bats was soon redundant – there were no bugs flying and any self-respecting bat was tucked up in the rafters of the barn.

Tuesday: Another fine day that again kept us busy. As has been so often the case at shows we got to meet some very interesting people; one lady I talked to showed particular interest in the pterodactyl fossils. She then told me that she has several fossils from the Solnhofen quarry because she lives in the area. Along with the Messel quarry famous for its mammals, Solenhofen has produced some of the finest fossils in Europe, amongst them Archaeopteryx. Another lady I chatted to turned out to be one of Charles Darwin’s great granddaughters – I felt honoured.

By the time of the Royal visit the weather was starting to turn again and as we packed up it started to rain so the Surreys ended up taking down wet canvas – possibly one of a re-enactors greatest dread. We said good bye to everyone and headed for home. Despite the slow start to the event I think that it was a success and we look forward to returning to COAM at some point in the future and working with James and his regiment again.

This is Prof Grymm wishing Queens Elizabeth and Victoria a very happy Diamond Jubilee.