Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Cliveden Blasts From The Past- 9 & 10 September



Friday: We arrived early in the afternoon, which was just as well as the little corner that we had been allotted a few weeks ago was disappearing into the Bucktail camp! This minor glitch was soon sorted out and, as it happened, we ended up right along the ride leading to the other living history groups – a prime spot. Another advantage of this little shift meant that we were not near the wasp nest that would have been right under our feet.

The ground was pretty lethal; not only was it uneven but sneaky rabbits had dug random pits just deep enough to twist the unwary ankle. There was going to be some sort of mega reception here on Sunday evening and every now and then a black helicopter flew over head, a little too close for comfort I thought.

We watched various colourful medieval tents going up, looking briefly like something from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as they spun around on the central pole. After dinner we popped down to see Phil and Jane at West Point. Bella, their big friendly rottweiler greeted us, there was one of those flashing red things on her collar but as night descended she became virtually invisible when laying on the had to check which way she was facing before patting her on the head.

When we returned to our camp we were invited over to the Bucktail campfire, due to lack of space their randomly generated ‘street’ looked more like a mushroom patch. We had a great time with them and there was a great deal of howling into the night!

Saturday: The site was heaving this morning, what little space remained was reserved for the public to move and stand. Before we opened up shop Laz, Cassandra and I ambled down to West Point to present them with a ‘By Royal Appointment’ certificate from Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico.

We had a constant stream of people along our path. I have noticed that while I am talking to one or two people I develop a sort of tunnel vision when suddenly I realise that there are some twenty odd eager listeners stretched out along the barrier. Our barriers suffered quite a bit, the ground was hard a couple of inches down so most of our poles were upright by sheer will power and the space between my table and the public rapidly disappeared as poles sagged and ropes wilted under the press.

I had the usual mix, but today’s prize goes to a little girl whose knowledge of dinosaurs was astounding to say the least – put it this way, I could not say “Baryonyx” when I was three years old. She was fascinated by the Pterodactylus elegans cast and told me that when the dinosaurs died out their relatives, the birds, took over.

Laz and Cassandra were also doing very well; although I did notice that Dr. Tooms was developing a bit of a fan club, he never got that sort of attention when he portrayed Major J C Jones of the 4th Texas...I suppose the blood spattered apron and pile of severed limbs may have had something to do with it.

Finally it was time to pack up and chill out, it had been a great day, in fact so many people had arrived that the car park was filled to capacity and people were being turned away. As I started preparing our evening meal, a single wasp turned up, we had been unmolested by these bugs all day but now they had sent out a scout to Grymm Tooms or in this case just Tooms. The wasp landed on his face and then wandered about until it found his nose where it peered into a nostril just in case there was something interesting in there. I was trying to work out how to deal with wasps in nasal cavities when it lost interest and flew off.

With darkness we set up our, now legendary, magic lantern show. Oddly enough the Grymm Tooms Picture Company has been in existence longer than the Travelling Museum. The Antarctic Explorers let us use the side of their huge tent. I’d love something like that for our museum but it would be a nightmare to put up. We had some new slides; in fact they were hot off the press as Dr. Tooms was putting them together during the day whenever he had a few minutes to spare. New adverts went up prior to the show and then we had some very nice hunting slides that mostly show what happens when you don’t get out of the way of your wounded target! Sadly, once on the screen, these lovely slides faded out into a series of ink blot tests that only a good psychologist could interpret.

After the show I watched some night-time fire juggling practice at the Lion Rampant camp. You must need some pretty neat co-ordination in order to grab the bit of the stick that you can’t see and so avoid sautéed digits.

We later spent some time at the Heilbron Kommando camp. I was offered a little wooden stool with rawhide straps to sit on. Chris called it ‘rimpi’ but I thought he said ‘impi’ and wondered what an elite Zulu unit might be doing down there...This was a great little social and we chatted about the Boer and Zulu Wars before saying good night and heading back for our tents.

Sunday: There was quite a bit of mist this morning and by the time I got out of the tent to sort out breakfast it was already warm. Poor Dr. Tooms didn’t sound so good, I heard him coughing and spluttering away earlier and when he finally crawled out of his tent he looked like death warmed up, as one would expect for someone called Lazarus Tooms, I suppose. His voice was a faint gasp and he was worried about how long he would be able to talk today, if at all. After breakfast he disappeared into his sagging tent “to take a power-nap and adjust his chakras” The reverberations of his chakras brought conversation to a stand still, little Zoë looked at me with slightly raised eyebrows and then went off with her parents!

Before show time we did a photo shoot as a group, the early sun seemed mostly in the wrong place no matter where we stood and while Cassandra looks cool and collected Laz and I are mostly scowling like a couple of grave robbers caught in the act.

Today I met another child full of dinosaur facts; he asked me if I had any Suchomimus teeth. I wonder what on earth these kids have been eating!? I could not even imagine what Suchomimus was when I was six... It is truly wonderful to see that dinosaurs are still exciting and grip our imagination as they did when the first ones were exhibited at Sydenham Park over 150 years ago.

We took a break at and we would all like to give a big ‘thank you’ to Rae and Donna from the Union command of Soskan who volunteered to look after the museum while we took an hour off. It was pretty hot once you were away from the trees and the place was jam-packed with people, the car park was full and it seems that the closed road was being used for extra parking. We went to see the puppet show at Perrot’s Puppets, a great tale about a dragon slayer. I was struck by the fact that so many people of all ages were watching this show.

We went down to see Ali and there we found something that Dr. Tooms was after – a pair of Persian slippers with wonderful turned up toes. The good doctor has been after an interesting ‘dress down’ outfit for some time and is now looking for some sort of Oriental gown...I do worry about him sometimes!

Back at the museum Rae told me that she had been telling visitors how amazing all our stuff was. It was pretty much non-stop from there on. There was a delightful group of kids who were a real pleasure to deal with, their hands went up and down like a Mexican wave and they asked so many questions I was on the verge of borrowing Dr Tooms’s spare brain just to keep up!

Between takes I managed to say hello to Jack from the 4th Texas, who now looked very dapper as a German infantryman and take an occasional bite of my food. I don’t usually talk to the crowd while I eat but today was an exception since I didn’t get to my grub until late in the day, not that anyone seemed to mind.

The end was nigh and as I started packing up, a young lad turned up who not only bombarded me with cynicism, but insisted on grabbing things to prove that they were fakes. I was far too exhausted and in no fit state to swashbuckle with so much pessimism! Hopefully next time he will keep an open mind and read the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs. Thankfully I was saved by two very nice ladies who asked sensible questions.

This is Prof. Grymm signing out...and for those of you who may have spotted it; both Baryonyx and Suchomimus were not discovered until the 1980’s and 90’s respectively, so there is no way that I would have known about them between the ages of 3 and 6 years! Oddly enough they are closely related...unlike the two kids...who were not...and just for the record; I’ve been fascinated by all things dinosaur since I was about 9...