Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Detling Military Odyssey - 26th to 28th August 2006



Friday: We arrived at the Show Ground with plenty of time to spare, Pitch 13 was one of the barns and for some time we hadn’t a clue what to do with all that space! There was just so much of it! Finally we sorted the area out and set about putting up the tents, the ground was compact and I had a job getting the tent pegs in, come to think on it, considering what the barn is used for I’m not at all sure just how much ‘ground’ were we actually camped on!

This was our first big show as GTTM and we were in fear of getting missed out, we even went so far as to buy a Union flag, I don’t much like tacky polyester flags but we felt we needed something at the front. Our barrier poles also came in useful to mark a trail to the exhibit.

We took the car to the family camp and then made our way back, stopping here and there to see what the sutlers had to offer. I jokingly said something about looking for a pith helmet as I had always wanted one. I couldn’t have one in ACWS but now that we are a sort of generic Victorian Group I can wear what I like, within reason. We were back at the same store that we had started out at and there on the counter was a pith helmet! It fit perfectly and it was mine...all mine!! Up until this morning I had a beard that looked like a badger and I decided that I would, just for this show, trim it down to mutton chop whiskers, and while they don’t go very well with the average t-shirt, it was worth doing just to buy a pith helmet!

After dinner we made our way down to the beer tent where we met Montana and Wayne from the 4th Texas, I am always amazed at the epic journey made by Wayne, 9 hours drive from Scotland, and he had been at Royal Gunpowder Mills last week!

The beer tent seemed to be mostly full of Germans looking very smart with their various iron crosses, merit and assault medals. I looked around to see what other uniforms were about; more WWII, ECW, ACW and our neighbours La Columna sang patriotic songs from the Spanish Civil War.

As we left the beer tent a young man came up and asked “I’ve lost my girlfriend, I don’t suppose that you have seen a really good looking Goth girl have you?” was anyone going to tell him if they had? Actually she called him while we were chatting and the two were happily reunited.

Saturday: The world was mostly a fuzzy sort of grey this morning, now and then a tree showed that the edge of the world was a bit further away than one might at first think. By the time that the show opened the sun was out with the promise of a good day. We were, however, still concerned that we would be missed, we need not have worried, the punters gradually drifted up to our street and the fact that our flag was back to front got us noticed by the Regency Club!

We were rarely swamped by people but we had a steady stream of groups with breathing space in between. Cassandra was least busy and this suited her since her department holds some of our more delicate items such as the magic lantern and praxinoscope. She had an odd encounter with a gent who thought that one of the praxinoscope strips was too realistic! OK, so it was the one of the guy juggling his own head, but this chap had just listened to the Dr. Tooms Craniology talk!

While Laz generally had good crowds I on the other hand found that I sometimes had problems moving people on, even though I had quite obviously finished. When I did my talks at ACWS shows I would talk about almost everything on the table which, I might add, is a lot of talking at best. I now talk about a few choice items, ask for questions and finish of with the cannibal fork.

Our new ‘Do Not Touch’ signs, printed off in giblet red, worked a treat; a lot of our stuff is pretty much hands on but we need to be in control of the handling – it’s a museum not a super market! Needless to say there were a few, all adults, who seemed to think that the signs did not apply to them; one chap actually moved a notice in order to grab something!

One of our visitors was a lady from the Horniman Museum in South London; I often mention them as they have an antique, crawling type mermaid on show as does the British Museum, which is of the ‘Feejee’ type. They are a bit hard to find but they are there. She told me that they had x-rayed their one and found that while most of it was animal based the rib cage was carved from wood. I have often suspected this as the crawling styles of mermaid all have similar odd shaped ribcages and no scapulars.

I had at least two people who thought that the furry fish was a real species although I do introduce it along with the non-descript. Sometimes a punter cross examines me as to the ‘reality’ of the exhibits; my standard reply is “They are as real as you see them!”

By the end of the day we were exhausted, we had hardly taken a break longer than 10 minutes and I forgot the time and went on ‘til 6pm! We met some great people including a man who had travelled and lived in various bits of the Pacific and New Guinea; he had basically done for real what my alter ego Prof. Grymm had done as fiction. Although Mark is about my age he looked surprisingly young, we suspected that he had a Dorian Grey painting tucked away somewhere amongst his incredible collection of tribal artefacts.

After dinner Jackie and Montana came by in their finest as they were soon off to the dance. We then set about preparing and testing the site for tomorrow’s light show before it got too dark. Of the four wall sections that we had to choose only one was without any obstruction, the others had waist high piles of gates and pens. No problems, we rigged up the sheet, a nice big screen for a change and waited for darkness. Our picture was not as bright as it should have been and then we realised that the wall was lit up by a light that seemed miles away but was shining through between our barn and that of La Columna’s; our wonderful screen was only fit for shadow puppets!

Plan B was to rig up a couple of our poles onto a stack of metal opposite and drape the sheet over them to give us a high screen, but that could wait until morning, it was time for a beer!

Sunday: There was a lot of rain during the night; the sound of it rattling on the metal roof woke us up in the early hours. But at least our tents were dry. There was an interesting smell coming up from the compact, and now damp, ground, a distinctly bovine smell if I am not mistaken!

After breakfast we rigged up a screen; what had taken us moments to do against the useless wall had now become an engineering project as we strapped two of our barrier poles to a stack of gates using leather thongs, string and wishful thinking.

We took some time out this morning to look around; I managed to resist buying anything although I was tempted by some interesting tribal stuff on one stall. It was just great to wander about a bit and stretch our legs. I returned to our street to get set up and there was Laz talking to a camera, for the second time at Detling I found myself giving an interview. The problem was that every time the camera got rolling there was an announcement over the tannoy until I had problems saying anything worth using, in the end I just made something up that was not rehearsed which sounded a lot better and relaxed.

Back to show business: We again had some great visitors, my favourites today were a bunch of kids who were captivated by my collection and gave a wonderful chorus of a disgusted “Eeerrrrkkkkk!” sort of sound when I told them about the fork!

It had been decided that we would get a take out tonight to save me cooking. As it happened I think I should have cooked! The Gods of Culinary Confusion lead us to some Southern Fried Chicken that can, at best, described as drier than the average Peruvian mummy.

We returned to our camp and prepared for the throng of eager re-enactors that we had invited to the show. We kept it simple by inviting our immediate neighbours, “The Greeks are coming.” I told Laz, he looked a bit worried about that, no doubt suspecting an invasion of rapacious Achaeans complete with wooden horse. When seen in perspective it was the most bizarre show that we had ever done encompassing several thousand years of history ranging from Stone Age Man to World War II. Since we were under cover we had a fabulous image and an equally fabulous audience, we had not realised that so many had turned up.

After the show we chilled out with Bruce who was doing WWII this weekend, he told us some pretty chilling tales about Independent paratroops. We haven’t seen Bruce for ages and it was great to sit and chat with him for a while.

Monday: What a morning! We had a hard job of things today as gusts of wind chucked stuff about and poor old Charlie the Shrunken Head had a very bad hair day indeed. Then the rain came...a great downpour that was driven into our faces by the wind. Despite being under cover our museum took a bit of a pasting but our visitors came to the rescue and several of them held umbrellas over the tables while we hastily packed things away.

Once the weather calmed down we carried on for a while, getting filmed again in the process, but we soon found that we just could not compete with the elements. Over at the Soskan camp a tent awning began to crumple and was in danger of becoming a hang glider so Cassandra and I went off and helped one of their men dismantle it since the pegs were being dragged out as fast as I was knocking them in. After that little adventure we packed up the museum and went walkabout.

The sun came out and the wind had dropped a bit by the time that everything was packed; hopefully it would stay that way for the parade. The trouble with taking part in such a huge event is that you never get to see what everyone else is doing. We went across to Shogun, we met them a couple of years and now they have a camp. Their armour and display is excellent and we were there for ages listening to excellent tales of the 47 Ronin and the grisly custom of sepuku.

We stopped for a chat with Stone Age Man, as a collector of many things, including rocks; I am fascinated by his talent. I tried flint knapping many years ago and mostly cut my hands to ribbons!

It was soon time for the parade so we ambled down to the meeting point, Laz got propositioned by a couple of ECW ladies...well at least they didn’t mention a tuppenny upright! I chatted with some of the Indians of the Wyoming Wild Bunch, their gear is very impressive, and I don’t even want to start working out the hours on all that homemade beadwork. I saw an interesting gun go by, a Renaissance piece I believe, called ‘le Lapin Sauvage’, it brought to mind that rabid rabbit in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’...or perhaps it was just a dream! As this was the only time that we saw most of our fellow show people, and we were sort of off duty, so to speak, we took a few pictures for our site.

Awards went to The Hoplite Association, The Wyoming Wild Bunch, Soskan, (who got an award for Best Dressed Child) and The Gibraltar Garrison to name but a few. It was then time for the Big Fight and we got off the field and headed back to start packing, we could not resist watching some of the battle! The Polish troops rushed to the side, chucked czapkas, shakos and muskets over the fence and then ran back to the scrap! Nuns shot arrows, Confederates used slings to shoot water bombs and there was a pike scrum that looked like a drunken porcupine...always a surreal experience the end fight!

Our first big show as a group was finished; we had battled the elements, talked ourselves hoarse and ached all over. We had made new friends, met loads of interesting people and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. It taught us a lot and gave us ideas for improvement. Thanks to all who came to the light show and a big thanks to the visitors who kept our stuff dry.

I’d like to finish off with what to me was the comment of the weekend, and probably the season, that left me amused, bemused and cringing: One gentleman suggested that the cannibal fork was a haemorrhoid whisk!

And on that note...this is Prof. L C Grymm signing off...