Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Cliveden Blasts From The Past- 7 to 9 September



Friday afternoon...: Where are we then?

When we arrived at Cliveden there was a problem with our site – it had been moved and we could not quite work out where we were supposed to be. We shifted and ambled about several times in that tradition of travelling museums. Howard was very helpful and we eventually ended up behind the ‘Wyoming Wild Bunch’, chronologically this is pretty much where we should be anyway and, once again, we were in a prime spot.

Once settled we enjoyed the evening, we had quite a few visitors; Greeks, Explorers, Wayne and his son Paul who is now going onto the field, and several others who ambled by. Once darkness descended the damp crept in until everything was covered with heavy dew that soaked into everything.

Saturday: Despite being able to have a lie in and starting late it took me a while to warm up to the visitors, I just could not wrap my head around my own information. I also had a bit of a disaster on my hands; the damp had split the base of my travel chest along its entire length so I had to be careful shifting it in case the bottom fell out. I suspect that the damage started on the flinty ground of Detling and the dew finished the job when it got into the already cracked wood.

Tony from ‘La Columna’ loaned a very impressive swordfish bill. It has been labelled as coming from ‘Pitcairn Island 1865’ and while it is undoubted very old the writing is not, perhaps it is covering an older script that has faded away.

While I was having a chat with Simon from Perrot’s puppets, I noticed a slight commotion concerning a horse. A steward was asking people to make way as the beast was looking pretty nervous. It then started backing up toward our Department of Visual Perception. Cassandra, enthralled by a Jane Austin novel failed to perceive that her horizon was rapidly being filled by lots of horse bottom. I called out, and just as the horses rump touch out rope barrier Cassandra looked up and flew out of her chair in a very dramatic manner. Thankfully disaster was averted by the rider who had a firm grip on the reins. This is something of an irony really since it was Cassandra who said to the Trojans “Don’t bring that horse in here it’s full of Greeks”.

One of my new exhibits was one of the flints that Otzi had given me at Detling, as promised the story for this was dedicated to the notorious flint forger Edward Simpson, otherwise known, amongst several other aliases, as Flint Jack. I found evidence that Simpson actually signed some of his forgeries so I have added his signature to the tool. This ovate is an excellent bit of work and far outshines Simpson’s efforts as he used a hammer to make his forgeries!

My last visitors of the day were a fantastic family group who were such fun to work with that I over ran...again. Why is it that some of the best public turn up so late? For the first time in ages I got to play with the mystery box, it is always there, usually with something sitting on it and very few people bother with it. When I asked who wanted to look into the Box of Mystery the chorus went: “Me! Me! Him!” they shouted in unison, a bit like that famous ‘stoning scene’. Throughout the day I kept being asked “is it real?” and the spokes-girl for this group was no exception, in fact she milked for all it was worth “Is that a real skull?” Is that a real fish?” “Is this a real rope?!” she finally asked in an impish sort of way.

Just back to that “is it real?” answer is if you can see it then it must be! It is very hard to retain some sort of first persona when you get interrupted with this question. I think visitors assume that if a re-enactor has an authentic item, possibly worth thousands of squid, it will be taken to an event where it will not only be exposed to the elements but also to their enquiring digits! Most of my Natural History items are genuine, some are copies made from organic materials while others are copies using modern materials to mimic old ones, regardless of materials they are all researched.

Actually there is one piece that I will be retiring; the Horned Rabbit of Saxony, I got bored talking about it! I have far more interesting items than my scruffy Lepus cornutus. I was also amazed at the number of kids who knew about Japanese Mermaids, it took me a while to realise that they had seen a recent programme about either mermaids or fakes...or possibly both.

Jackie joined us for dinner this evening and Steve brought over some birthday cake. It’s so civilised to actually sit at a table instead of squatting on the ground like we did years ago. And then came the moment we had all been waiting for...possibly...the last lantern show of the season. While we were setting up, a Cossack came by wearing one of those elegant coats with the cartridge pockets just big enough for a decent cigar. When I mentioned this he turned to his mate and said “I claim my £10!” obviously not the first time that he had heard this.

Our lantern show drew quite a crowd and was a packed bill and included a ‘feature film’ called ‘The Tooms that Time Forgot’ an epic of Grymm’s time travel experiences using Dr Tooms’s Turdis. We had ‘Time Tunnel’ special effects with moving pictures, dinosaurs, the incredible shrinking elephant, castles, Hoplites...more fact it was sort of dedicated to them since it was Elaine’s idea to take a picture of me outside a Turdis.

Sunday: After breakfast we visited La Columna’s camp, they had a fantastic little spot in the trees and had dug a trench that incorporated part of a fallen tree.

I was going to do a sort of condensed version of the ‘Iliad’ at the Hoplites on Saturday but that did not pan out so I went down there today during a lull to see what we were going to do. Within minutes it was quite obvious that another hoplite conspiracy was brewing. My hat was taken and then my coat – I was going to take part in ‘dress the hoplite’. A tunic went over my head and Victorian clothing, then came the linothorax followed by a felt cap and helmet, as the straps were tightened the half smoked cigar in my pocket turned into a book mark. A Corinthian type helmet with a high crest was next, always fancied myself wearing one of these. Then came the shield (aspis or hoplon), actually when I was asked if I had any preferences of city I plucked Thebes out of the ether. Mark grinned at me “Well, it was your choice, remember The Sacred Band!” Ho hum! Once covered in all this gear I could barely see a thing, lifting the shield I clunked it against the helmet and the sound was ‘very interesting’. In fact every word I uttered bounced around in there, it must have been hideous once the fight started: a couple of inches of vision and deafening noise must sum it up, I should think. I changed shield as the first one sat badly on my shoulder – I ended up with a winged boar, or in layman’s terms: a flying pig! Finally I was handed my spear, I had to be careful with that in case I impaled my right foot with the spiked butt.

I was asked if I wanted to have arrows shot at me so I agreed, I just couldn’t resist. I remembered that bit in Homer where “...many a man was hit in the nipple of the breast and darkness came upon him...” so made sure that I was well and truly covered by the shield when the arrows started flying. So with pointy thing at the shoulder and left foot forward I took the full impact of several arrows shot by one of the younger members.

Afterwards I had a go with the bow, I have not played with a bow for several decades and my first attempt was somewhat pathetic with the arrow appearing to limp rather than fly the 10 feet it covered. Still I sort of got the hang of it and only had one arrow go sideways while another killed a cowering pile of wood that was not in my line of fire.

After my little stint at playing hoplite I returned to our display and had a great chat with a visitor who turned out to be a doctor and was very interested in Laz’s various head surgery items.

Well it has been a great, if somewhat brief season for GTTM, I for one have a couple of new ideas and rather more repairs than I had hoped...ah but wait...I have my trusty Turdis...

This is Prof Grymm heading for that Psychedelic Spiral Tunnel of the Sixties to move that chest before the damp gets to it!