Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Royal Gunpowder Mills (Multi-period Event) 27 & 28 May 2007



Sunday: There must be better things to do on a Sunday than stand in a cold, concrete floored hanger type building waiting for a chance visitor to ask, ”What’s that then?” Apparently it rained enough for 2 months and possibly stopped for about twenty minutes – not all of it at once I might add.

As soon as our displays were set up we put on the phonograph only to find that it had a loose giblet somewhere so it sat mute for the day. Instead we listened to the rain; my specimens were probably considering heading two by two, in a mismatched sort of way, towards the half restored powder barge.

Oddly enough we got visitors not long after opening, amazing that anyone would be out in this weather for their amusement! Several people were now regulars and it was nice to see them. There was some sort of lull in the deluge and the Land Train ran a couple of times.

We tried a new mode of programme today, but due to the irregular visitors it was hard to judge if sticking to a timetable of three main talks for the day worked. It was, however, a nice way of doing things. We could actually see our own exhibits from the public point of view and gave us a chance to stretch our legs and do informal talks with curious people.

One of my new exhibits is King Charles the First’s Parrot. The ‘parrot’ was presented to Frank Buckland, son of the famous palaeontologist William Buckland, and one time assistant surgeon of the 2nd Life Guards. His friends claimed that the specimen was found walled up in an old chimney in the Queen’s apartments at Windsor Castle. Frank Buckland no doubt saw the funny side since he was now the proud owner of about half a rabbit skeleton! A little engraving in ‘Animal Fakes & Frauds’ by Peter Dance (1976 SBN 562 00045 3) is the only reference that I could find for this specimen and I designed mine so that it was easier to transport than the original. If anyone out there knows of the whereabouts or has more information on the original I would love to hear from them. Strange thing is that some people saw the parrot instead of the rabbit when I showed it to them.

I did manage to take a little time out and left the hut to visit the Medieval surgeon, he has a wonderful painting that illustrates various injuries from an assortment of stabbing, hacking, prodding, crushing things. I even got to hold a halberd, a sort of Swiss knife on a stick that is designed to unhorse, cut, maim and stab the enemy.

Monday: we arrived early, too early, and stood outside L168 watching the weather which had changed from lots of rain to quite a bit of rain with sudden gusts of wind. Thoughts for the morning: what are we doing here? Is any one else here? Have they seen us on the CCTV? When will they find us?

The field was mostly a swamp and when Brian arrived he was thinking about not opening. As it turned out, we had a very good turn out of visitors, and since Laz said “we won’t get many people, so let’s not bother with talk times” we ended up hardly taking a break – so much for our trial timetable.

Still at least the phonograph was up and running and filled the room with well-known Victorian tunes such as ‘Dixie’, ‘Daisy’ and the ‘Esquimaux Song’. This last is one of my favourites, not because it’s any good but because it is so daft. It’s hard to imagine the Victorian Top 10 featuring this little tune in which a man barks like a dog and hits an anvil; it is more ‘Wolf Man Meets the Tin Man’ than anything remotely traditional Inuit music!

Cassandra was having a thoroughly miserable time – cold and wet are not her favourite companions and later we headed for the café for hot chocolate and a bowl of chips.

One visitor actually commented on my egg collection, mentioning that it was illegal to take birds eggs. Yes it is but all my eggs are either models or painted chicken eggs, apart from, of course, the ostrich egg. I even have a new great auk egg, so newly made, in fact, that had it been painted in any thing other than acrylic it would have had a ‘wet paint’ sign on it.

So there you have it, our first event of the season and, when all is said and done it was, despite the elements, a success.

This is Prof. Grymm...investing in a steam powered submersible.