Friday: Laz and I arrived at the Mills on Friday afternoon.
There seemed to be a very good turn out for this show and we were
set up on the Civilian/Union Street next to Stewart’s field
hospital and opposite West
Point. Once our homes were ready, I went about preparing
our evening meal. While we ate our chilli, a couple of fallow deer
bucks came out onto the grass, they really are very tame; several
people got close enough to feed them.
We spent the evening on the Texas Street; I was very chilled
out but also knackered and kept dozing off. The thing about dozing
is that you still hear conversations in a surreal sort of way, the
oddest subject I heard was ‘the Cottingley
Fairies’...or maybe I had eaten too much blue cheese again.
It was a very nice night with a good show of stars in the almost
cloudless sky. It’s a sad fact of life that you have reached the
state of an old gaffer when you turn to your friend and say, “When
I was a kid the sky was so black you could see the Milky Way and
the only things that moved in it were a few planes, bats and the
odd UFO looking for victims to try out Hoover attachments on.”
Saturday: Some of our neighbours were looking a little odd
this morning; Phil and Andrew were sitting by the
fire dressed as women; they were ‘protesting’ that if women could
dress as men then why can’t men dress as women? I made a general
announcement, introducing Andrew as “Artemisia,
the Bearded Lady of Thrace!”
We had a good turn out of public. I had some interesting folks
who giggled at the mention of Barnum
and his Mermaid; it turned out that they were from Connecticut
where he was born. One little girl was freaked out by the mummified
cat and a boy told me about Mary
Anning and her ichthyosaur.
For the post battle display, Stewart, Laz and I did a sort of joined
up talk starting with Stewart talking about Civil War medicine and
performing a gory, squirting amputation followed by a short bit
on head wounds before passing onto Laz who talked about more cranial
damage than you can shake a stick at. Or in Mr.
Gage’s case shove a stick through!
And then it was my turn, I did the usual false fossil bit, the
gripping and tragic tale of the last Great
Auk and then moved onto the Neanderthal
skull. This is one of my favourites. Just as I got to the bit where
the Cossack becomes Homo neanderthalensis the heavens opened up!
It was the only real rain that we had all day and it chucked it
down for about 5 minutes, just long enough to wreck a few pictures,
dampen the exhibits and disperse the crowd.
“That’s what happens when you agree with Darwin!” shouted Dr. Tooms.
There was no sign of the deer in the evening; you would think that
decades of listening to various detonations would have made them
immune to a few bangs from a re-enactment group.
Back by popular demand was the Grymm Tooms Picture Show,
we were going to set up a screen between two tents but as soon as
I had it rigged up someone put something extremely combustible onto
the fire and the screen went Super Nova! Plan B was the back of
For my Natural History slide show I did Mammals for a change and
as usual Laz put these out randomly so I had no idea what was coming
next. To be honest the show sort of ran itself; someone makes a
comment and I try to fit it in.
“...and the next slide...ah, yes, the aye-aye...”
I was going to say quite a bit about this obscure lemur, I even
remembered the scientific name, but as soon as the slide was up
everyone went into three verses of “Singing aye aye yippee yippee
aye!” I gave up. But for the sake of science, and all that, the
aye-aye is best described as a gangly, bug eyed cross between Lewis
Carroll and a cat
in a storm drain which goes by the wonderful name of Daubentonia
madagascariensis. Amazing as it may seem this critter has a Convergent
evolved doppelganger living in New Guinea and Queensland known as
the striped possum (Dactylopsila
trivirgata)...which is, by comparison, very cute. Oh, and did
you know that Daubenton also has a bat?
As we sat by the fire enjoying the ambience of the evening, Sergeant-Major
Glen turned up, slightly influenced by fermentation, to apologise
for the behaviour of one troublesome member. As it turned out we
had not seen this chap and Glen was evidently on the wrong street!
There was quite a debate about various things which by some horrid
twist in the undergarments of life turned to bread and buns...this
debate went on even longer than the previous one with Glen’s theory
being that buns are made of bread, therefore they are ‘bready buns’.
I think that at one point we expected someone to turn up to apologise
for the previous apology but instead Mike called the Provost
Guard on his mobile to come and take Glen away! It got very
surreal and I had not touched any cheese.
Sunday: I was greeted by yet another odd sight when I crept
out of the tent in the small hours: the sad damp remains of many
‘bready buns’ were scattered around the fire and West Point
had a cannon pointing at their store. Obviously the Sergeant-Major
had returned with some hard evidence while at some point during
the night some young US troops had been corrupted into planting
the cannons in various parts of the camp. We saw them returning
the guns, each wearing a pair of underpants on their heads...hopefully
their own. The French Kepi
having been replaced by the US kacks! We were told that part of
their punishment was to do any horrid chore that we could think
Laz and I took a few hours out in order to take a trip around the
Mills on the land train. This is an amazing place, some of it looks
like some ancient lost city in the tropics. I was most impressed
by the bridge that was now mostly tree.
By the time that we returned it was time to set up the museum and
get to work. We met Brian (of Gunpowder Mills) a couple of
times during the day and Liz came by to take a few pictures
of my mermaids – on display for the first time together were my
original ‘Feejee’ mermaid, my new crawling Sinister Siren of the
Seas and the Jenny
We sat back and watched the battle, the afternoon was glorious
and there was a strange contrast of bangs and flashes on the field
while very close to us over 20 large dragonflies soared and hunted
Kerry the Seamstress went on the field as a man, having
started out the day as a woman...as one would expect...she then
returned and rapidly transformed into a woman again and thankfully
remembered to remove the 5 O’clock shadow make up too. I did suggest
that she could join Grymm Tooms as the ‘Incredible Transformational
The post battle talk went very well and with out any hitches although
I did keep one eye on the sky when I got to talking about the world
It had been a great event and, despite the some times odd weather,
I think that every one had a good time. One lady who saw my collection
knew what the fork really was for; a friend of hers has one! That’s
at least two that I am now aware of...well, I never!
Your humble servant, Professor Leonidas Grymm