Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum

Forge Mill Needle Museum 11-13 May2012




Friday: We arrived at the Forge Mill Needle Museum in the afternoon and were met by Debbie who showed us our pitch which was almost anywhere on the green as long as we kept in mind that Abs would be running a Victorian football match on the same green over the weekend. Once we had checked out where we would be doing our display and sorted out our tents we settled down to…an incredibly cold and windy evening that soon had us cowering in our sleeping bags.

Saturday: It had been an incredibly cold night but thankfully morning was sunny, although it took a while for my brain to warm up, and by then the others had turned up. This was going to be one of those cosy little shows; the only other participants being Jane & Jon from Hands on History and Abs.

We set up our specimens. Esme, having been inspired by her recent trip to Belgium, again chose to recline on a case with as much tranquillity as a grinning mummy can muster. Before the visitors turned up I took a walk around the museum displays and found a little article about The Black Dog of Arden, I was a little disturbed by this since last night I had commented on seeing a black cat wandering across the field.

When I showed Gillian my mummified cat she told me that she had once asked to loan a specimen which, in contrast to the fact that mummified cats had once been used as fertilizer, had arrived at Forge Mill in a security van.

Once the gates were open we found that we were busy throughout the morning; I had a very interesting chat with a taxidermist and then had one of those photo sessions for the local paper…at least that is what I think it was. We had a very busy morning and during a lull when we knew almost everyone was outside, I took a break and joined them to watch Abs re-create the Charge of the Light Brigade, that famous moment in what must be one of the most ill-conceived expeditions in British history. I returned to our display and a pretty busy afternoon.

As gradually people left and quiet descended, Jane bought us a little of the ice cream that she had made as part of her display. I love ice cream, or rather I love real ice cream and not that frozen margarine, as Jane described some types around, and this little sample was overwhelmingly delicious! Jane was impressed that I was impressed!

We all met up for a little soiree in the evening and since we had been so taken by Jane’s ice cream she agreed to make more for dessert. So how do you make ice cream in a field? The ingredients are very basic: cream, sugar and mashed strawberries seem to be about it, this is put into a container which is placed into a little barrel containing ice and salt…and that is where the magic began. I failed physics so was further impressed at how fast the temperature dropped when the salt was added to the ice, within a minute or so the digital thermometer showed -140C. The end result was even yummier because I had witnessed the transformation! Having spoiled us with ice cream Jane than brought out a packet of macaroons; is it me or do macaroons bring back childhood memories?

By the time we made our way back to the tents the wind was blowing again and it had once again turned very cold so I made a draft excluder from an old bit of canvas to avoid the previous evening’s experience.

Sunday: While we waited for the public to turn up I had a look around the needle museum. I must say that needles do not do much for me, they are after all just useful sharp bits of steel, but then I saw the conditions that people worked in to produce them. The wages might have been exceptional (about a guinea per day) but then you had to contend with blinding from broken needles pressed against a millstone that might fracture and disembowel you long before your lungs are destroyed with silicosis by the time you get to 30 – I developed a new outlook and respect for the humble sewing needle.

We had another busy day and I had some great chats with visitors. One young lady was so amazed by the specimens that every time I said something she exclaimed “Wow!” while another lady got into a debate about bamboo when I talked about the club that killed Capt. Cook. Well, she was Vietnamese and told me that she couldn’t stand the stuff because it was the main building material where she lived – in fact almost everything was made of bamboo.

We also had one of those kids visit us who is so hungry for knowledge that she kept coming back to make sure that she had not missed anything. She even returned while we were packing up. We said good bye to everyone and headed for home.

We would just like to thank all at the museum for their hospitality at this neat little place.

This is Prof Grymm starting a needle collection.