Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Hughenden’s Victorian Weekend July 21-22 2012



Friday: For the last few weeks I have been referring to Disraeli’s home as Hug Henden, which makes sense really…well, it does to me! Howard met us when we arrived and after directions that were pretty simple we got lost going to the back gate! We took a right instead of a left and ended up with the car heading for the immaculate lawns at the back of the house! After a considerable amount of manoeuvring which involved reversing down a slope barely wide enough for the car and being attacked by disgruntled yew trees – one bashed me on the head when I wasn’t looking - we finally got onto the right track. OK, almost there, except for by-passing the back gate again and ending up somewhere over the horizon. Finally, after convincing the car that it had four wheel drive and coaxing it up a cow pat covered slope we arrived at the gate.

While I carried gear up the slope to the lawn Frank the Gardener turned up with his little truck and helped us with the rest of our stuff. It felt almost a crime to drive tent pegs into such a well-cared for lawn but Frank assured us that it would be OK as he did not pamper it too much.

Once camped and settled down we chilled out on this beautiful evening. Around sundown I went for a walk around the wood, an early noctule flitted by. After dark we found a glow worm, our native species may not be the world’s most dramatic phosphorescent bug but it is always a good find.

Saturday: We were up bright and early to set up, although the public were not due in for several hours. I went for a walk around to the front of the house where the 1879 Group were camped. It is surprising how popular the Zulu War is amongst re-enactors and wargamers, a popularity immortalised by Michael Caine and Stanley Baker in that wonderful movie about small cars. I was particularly interested in a collection of weapons that one of the guys had but I was also curious about one of the skins that he had on display – it was that of a black back jackal, apparently I was the only person who had ever recognised it as such, but then, in the words of a good friend of mine, I do know some shit!

We met Laura from the 1879 Group who was mostly in a Steam Punk sort of dress who also knows a lot of…stuff; we talked about all sorts of subjects ranging from myth to the origins of the tarantella, the folk dance from which we get the name for tarantula.

We were incredibly busy throughout the day and it was hot; what a pleasure it was to be doing an outdoor show that did not involve rain, wind and ectoplasm. I had one ‘interesting’ moment while giving a talk; a small child reached up to grab the barrier rope, missed and fell forward toward my display of weapons, I managed to save the sprog.

I was proudly wearing my new smoking cap made by Jane Walton, a lovely red paisley number with red tassel. However smoking caps are not recommended wear on a sunny day – by late afternoon I had a line across my forehead that left me looking as though mad Dr Victor had stolen my brain. We had recommended that Cassandra watches Jane’s magic ice cream making session. She later returned at a run with a small sample of strawberry ice cream for us, “Quick! Eat it before it melts!”

We spent the evening with Jane & Jon. As a geologist Jane has a huge collection of specimens and like me, has rocks and fossils all over the house. She showed me what must be the biggest piece of quartz I have ever seen in a private collection; it must weigh 40kilos and lives in the garden. Dinner was prepared by Jenny and Ben and was accompanied by homemade elder flower cordial. You need a lot of sugar to make cordial giving the bottle a weight as though the bottle was full of mercury! While Cassandra retired to a nice comfortable bed Tooms and me headed back to Hughenden.

Sunday: Another gorgeous morning and breakfast on Frank’s lawn; there is a pair of red kites in the area, we could hear them calling most of the time, a call that sounds like a battle cry, occasionally we would see one close by over the house and I realised that this was the first time that Tooms had actually seen one properly. We see so many while on the road but of course he is driving instead of birding so they are just birds to him. I was once in a car with a group when the driver spotted a barn owl in a field; she took her eyes off the road to lean across me to point the bird out! My life flashed briefly before at the cost of a barn owl!

The day turned hot again and we were again very busy. For the second time ever I met someone who did not believe that the platypus is a real critter. Then again I met a child who called it a flatypus… how curious.

I took a breather around lunch time and headed up to the front lawn. Jane’s ice cream making demonstration had a great turn out but suffered somewhat under the impact of the mid-day sun and it took quite a while for the ice cream to form, the top layer kept melting. We also got to watch Abs and his Victorian football with its rather odd rules.

We had been busy throughout the weekend at this lovely place and what topped it for us was that we had a dry and warm event. Many thanks to Jane and Jon for their hospitality and Frank the Gardner for his help and enthusiasm.

This is Prof. Grymm…looking for the aftersun