Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Dover Castle, Kent (English Heritage) 16 to 17 August



Friday: On arrival at Dover Castle we were met by met by Alysha. We had also allowed plenty of time so that we could sort out where we were going to set up the museum. We were hoping for somewhere sheltered; it was quite obvious that a gust of wind up there would be disastrous for the collection. We need not have worried, Alysha took us up to the Keep and showed us the Lower Chapel – this is a fantastic little room, with a beautiful arched doorway, windows and places we could put things. Some thoughtful soul had, way back in circa 1188, made a little niche into which one could display a shrunken head! The only drawback to all this was that it was up stairs and I was the only one who could get the heavy stuff up there…ho hum…

Dinner was eagerly watched over by a couple of herring gulls that were quick to try and grab anything edible and unguarded. Did you know that ‘seagulls’ don’t feature in field guides? It is usually ‘Gull and Terns’…just thought you’d like to know that.

This was a fairly small event and reminded me a bit of the events that we used to go to at Boscobel House many years ago. After dinner we visited our neighbours. We lost Tooms on the way…don’t ask how…we only had a couple of hundred feet to walk in the dark! As it happened, he was with a group who described themselves as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (and 2 spares…). We ended up at Don and Catherine’s (of Heuristics), along with Eric and Val (The Ratcatchers).

Saturday: There was something surreal about the scene as we headed from the Lower Chapel; colourful Medieval tents, Roman lavatory, rat catcher and hooded corpse swinging merrily from the gallows of the hangman.

As we added the finishing touches to the museum a member of staff was looking at my ichthyosaurus vertebra; he asked me where I had bought it. I said that I had picked it up at the ‘Fossil Shop’ in Lyme Regis. “I thought it looked familiar” said Steve; it seems that he had found it in Dover, sold it to a shop in Dorset to be bought by me to show it to its finder!! Now what on earth are the chances of that happening! Funny old world innit!?

As the morning progressed and people came up to see us, I noticed that there were some hideously injured kids wondering about; cuts, horrid holes in foreheads and purple bruises. They had been visiting the face painting (with a difference) tent next to our little camp. Oddly enough I also saw a few adults with equally nasty wounds…

Fuchsia came to visit us from the Four Horsemen… and took some photos and talked about her pet ferrets – ferrets are so cute.

We met lots of interesting people from all over the world it seems. I heard the word ‘tsantsa’ from one gentleman and went to talk to him. He was, of course, talking about Charlie who was now displayed in his apparently purpose built niche. This man lived in Ecuador and had travelled quite a bit. We chatted about the Shuar (or Jivaro) who make the heads and he told me that this unpleasant business is still going on. I also met a very nice bunch of ladies from Boston and a family from Chile who were fascinated by the platypus. One lady who had done an Anthropology degree had chosen cannibalism as her subject. Oddly enough, a friend of mine had done exactly the same thing trying to prove that cannibalism did not and had not ever actually existed but had been a general thing told by one group of people to degrade another group; sort of “those people up the hill eat dogs” sort of deal. Any way the end of it is that my friend agreed that people did, in fact, eat other people!

A couple of lads came hurrying up the stairs and asked if we were the ones with the ghost pictures. What they saw through the stereoscope did not exactly leave them quivering with fear and they left almost as quickly as they had arrived. At least the poster that we had designed in true showman fashion was working thanks to Alysha who made a large copy of it as our sign.

When I asked a group of visitors what the mystery mammal was, one young lad called it a ‘cui’ and, as a man who knows a few things, I recognised this as the native word for guinea pig, which the critter is not, but I have never heard anyone actually call the humble cavy a cui or cuy before…very interesting…apparently there is good eatin’ on a guinea pig.

We were kept very busy throughout the day and Dr Tooms kept us entertained with his new toy which is a genuine Edison phonograph, well it would have been entertaining had he not played the same bit of ‘When There Isn’t a Girl About’ about fifty times!

And so the day ended and we headed back to our tents for dinner. Tooms had made a jelly for desert and was disappointed that, despite hours of hard work it was all red! However this was just an illusion, possibly caused by gases reflecting off the stratosphere, or possibly Venus, as it was quite colourful once it was served up.

Dinner was again carefully monitored by a couple of herring gulls that watched us like harpies at the table of Phineas… (Who may or may not have owned a mermaid) One of them even tried to drag off our cloth bag full of cooking gear!

We were so exhausted that we all hit the sack by 9pm! What ever happened to those early re-enactment days when we stayed up to drink into the early hours and get up at the crack of dawn to do marchy-marchy stuff - mostly because some bounder blew a bugle at 06.00!

Sunday: It rained during the night…oh please give us a show without rain 'n' wind!!!!

As I served breakfast I heard a familiar “krok, krok” call of a raven and was fortunate enough to watch this noble bird harangue one of our resident harpies!

Steve came by this morning and donated a couple of fossils, a Micraster sea urchin and a beautiful little ammonite Eupholites lautus*. Many thanks.

I have over the last couple of days managed to slip on the castle cobbles due to the fact that the leather soles of my brogues have been nicely polished by friction. As a result of this I tended to walk as though I was hiking across a frozen lake – hardly the most graceful way for a renowned explorer to mosey! Note to self: get rubber soles for boots!

There was a boy who not only liked dinosaurs but was also fascinated by Jack the Ripper. Makes one wonder what sort of adult he will grow into really…ohhh nooo he will be a sort of Grymm Tooms Combo!!

We took a few minutes time out and chatted with Don on his replica Houseteads Roman toilet complete with running water and several sponges onna stick.

There were again lots of crowds, at one point that little chapel was wall to wall with visitors…oh and there was lots of wind. And then came the news from Vicky that one of our tents was starting to come adrift. I finished my talk to a group of people and Janet and I hurried out, mindful of my roller skate action brogues. By the time that we arrived Vicky was sort of hanging on to the end of Laz’s tent, either trying to stop it from buckling completely or just hanging on hoping that it would not take off. Don came down to help (cheers) but I gave up trying to keep the wobbly thing upright so I folded it down and hog tied the critter to the ground.

The Medieval tents faired little better and they were soon packing a home away, the Horsemen had added demolition by wind to their repertoire.

By the time that I got back to the chapel Tooms and Steve had become something of a double act, as Dr Tooms tried to remember names of my exhibits, Steve would provide the names!

Once the show was over, I had to lug all the gear back down the stars and into the car, which thankfully we could get right up to the chapel. Apart from Dr Tooms tripping over his own shadow and almost trepanning himself on the flint wall, the packing up was pretty uneventful!

And so on to the quote of the weekend, this, in fact, probably deserves a prize of some sort:

“Is that the fat midget?” This came from am American gentleman referring to our photo of Her Majesty Queen Victoria! He thought that it was a picture of Tom Thumb’s wife! What can I say? The horror…the horror…

This is Prof. Grymm off to apologise to Mrs Brown

*If you check this ammonite on Wikipedia there is a link to the ammonite genus Hoplites…oddly enough the link takes you Hoplites…Greeks…without any mention of crusty cephalopods anywhere!