Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Royal Gunpowder Mills Victorian Christmas Experience - 11th - 12th December 2010



Saturday: According to a Google Alert Kat from Big Brother 9 would be appearing in the Christmas Panto at the Mills and “The renowned historical re-enactment groupGrymm Tooms Travelling Museum' will also be on hand” well, I must say we have never been ‘renowned’ before so we were very excited…I think.

Of course one of the other things we noticed in this article was the time, we are used to The Mills starting at 11:00, but suddenly we realised that we should have left at 08:00! We don’t like being late but as it happened we were on time, the first that Brian heard about a 10:00 start was when we told him!

As we travelled to the Mills I noticed a road kill fox by the side of the road, then a few hundred feet on was a dead rabbit; it was one of those instant scenario moments for me – rabbit chased by hungry fox along road, fox fails to see the looming shape of a lorry, rabbit looks backs, “Ha! That’ll teach you to mess with the Centzon Totochtin!” and thus failing to see the next car! The moral of this sad little tale is: don’t chase dinner along the road and don’t mock your defeated enemy when you too are still in the road.

Tricia and Jeremy were there as usual, they were, in fact overseeing the panto what she wrote…Today also saw the unveiling of some new exhibits for my department; a female angler (Melanocetus sp) complete with attached male, my Easter Island kava-kava man based on specimens collected by Captain Cook and the ultimate of the Victorian collector – a Peruvian mummy. ‘Esme’ as she has been tentatively called, is a head and left forearm, which is placed within traditional wrappings to give the impression of a complete body…it could be the world’s first flat packed mummy! Esme was positioned in such a way that she was the first thing visitors saw as they came up to the theatre. Well, it stopped Liz in her tracks!

We had another visit from Her Majesty who was once more amused and fascinated by our exotic collection. Kids were equally fascinated by the new exhibits; Esme caused a combination of awe and, possibly, disgust while they could relate to the fish because they had seen one in ‘Finding Nemo’. (It’s a rather odd title as it literally means ‘Finding Nobody, it is what Odysseus calls himself when Polyphemus asks his name, thus giving us what is probably the only funny bit in the ‘Odyssey’) While I was showing a group the hideous benthic being, I noticed something more horrid – the polymer clay around the jaws had cracked! It had taken me several attempts to salvage hake jaws to use as they are the closest set of dentures I could find, I suspect that they had swollen slightly and popped the plastic despite my efforts to seal them, there was no problem with this the first time I popped it into water. Like all the models this is a one off so it is always a case of trial, error and experimentation

Preacher had donated a little deer skin pouch with four bones in it, two plain, two marked; this is the Indian bone game or Sal-Hal to give it its proper name. Played avidly amongst the natives of the Pacific north-west the bones got the attention of two sisters who were eager to try out the guessing game – the trouble was they both cheated! Even their mother cheated when she played against them! One of them, the cheeky one, noticed the kava-kava and the fact that “He’s got a willy…”oh dear, must remedy that. When I showed it to them I made sure that my hand was wrapped around it to hide the appendage!

In the afternoon our regular fan turned up with her mum, apparently she refers to me as the ‘Weird Man’, and then again in school she is called the ‘Weird Girl’. She wanted a photo taken with me, possibly to prove to her mates that I exist, so we posed with the mummy. I managed to get Bek to hold the mummy’s hand and for some reason her enthusiasm waned a little!

Sunday: There was no rush this morning, all our stuff was set up and we could chill out for a while before opening time. There was only one set back…my voice had almost disappeared during the night; this was going to be an interesting day.

While we waited for the gates to open we had a look at the armoury. This is an awesome collection and some of the weapons can be handled so I played with the PPSH-41, that famous Russian weapon of WWII; for its size this is such a heavy weapon. The abbreviation stands for: Pistolet-Pulemyot Shpagina which sounds like a rather decent pasta dish! “Ppsh!” is also the sort of sound, known as pishing, one makes to get rare warblers to pop out of a bush to see what is going on.

Somehow I managed to gasp and squeak my way through the day, at one point I sounded like that penguin in ‘Toy Story’. When Her Majesty came by she observed that the kava-kava man was now wearing a leaf! Yes folks, for the sake of Victorian dignity I tied a silk leaf around his waist.

Amongst the folks I met today was a kid who does not believe in dinosaurs and, as a contrast, a chap who talked about evolution deniers and, throughout all this my voice got further and further away…

It was almost the end of the day and when the panto was finished Kat came out and had her photo taken with our collection; each brief pose was followed by a rapid shift to another position leaving little more than blurred images…she would have been a Victorian photographers nightmare! And so we finally packed up and headed for home…

This is ‘The Renowned’ Prof Grymm in search of vocal chords.