Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Hughenden’s Victorian Weekend July 26-28 2013



Friday: We arrived early afternoon and found that, contrary to myth, we were going to camp on the same green as last year. While we waited for Frank to let us onto the green, we chatted with Van and his Crimean Crew. I get a bit confused with Crimean War uniforms; many still had that Napoleonic War cut to them and a few styles would find their way onto the field in the early days of the Great War.

Finally we were set up and relaxed with a gin and tonic, enjoying the warm evening awaiting the arrival of our guest, the randomly generated Malachi Sternberg. We waited quite a long time and when I called his home I found that he had left an hour earlier, which was about the time he should have arrived. Malachi finally arrived about four hours late, we had already eaten by then so we left him to it, although I can’t quite figure out what sort of person takes muesli to a shared meal! Then again another friend of mine once took a durian to a barbeque!!

Saturday: Sunshine, breakfast on the lawn, a buzzard and red kite flying side by side over the house. Quite frankly I could have sat like that all day but the show must go on! My first visitor was a veteran who had been stationed in the Far East during the Malayan Emergency. Having seen Charley, he told me about his time in Malaya and how the occasional head would be offered to British troops as a souvenir. I read a novel many years ago that mentioned head shrinking by Dayaks but I have never found any real evidence of this.

When Jane and Jon Walton arrived we collected a new smoking cap that we commission at TORM; this was for Cassandra and was done in the glorious colours of the Women’s Suffrage movement. Malachi had also bought one of Jane’s now famous smoking caps so we posed for a couple of group photos for her to advertise her wares.

I met a Japanese lady who was intrigued by the mermaid. She told me that you can see ‘mummified’ mermaids in shrines and that if you eat a piece of the dried flesh you will become immortal. I guess that would depend on your immunity to whatever chemicals were used to preserve the thing!

We met The Rapscallions, many of whom are our friends from Laredo, who were now portraying a bunch of gents playing cricket while the ladies sat around enjoying a picnic. I must admit that we have rarely seen our friends looking so dapper, usually they are a rough, scruffy, scarred mob who would sell their grannies for a cup of gin and yet, here they were in shirtsleeves whacking a cricket ball across the field and shouting “Howzat!” I don’t pretend to understand cricket and have something of a distrust of airborne leather balls heading for my face.

The very hot day ended with a heavy downpour that went on for ages and we ended up eating under canvas.

Sunday: The rain had passed and it was a beautiful morning so we took the opportunity to meet up with photographer Alex Burnham to sit for a couple of tin types. Alex has created one of the most amazing living history displays for photography that we have seen; his gear, including bottles of mostly unpleasant developing fluids, travels with him in a cabinet and he uses aluminium (aluminum to our American friends) for the photos instead of tin, probably because it is considerably cheaper. *

Early photography was a bit hit and miss at times and occasionally Alex had to retake the shot several times to get a good photo. For us the lighting was perfect and the three photos we sat for came out a treat. In an age of instant digital photography there is something truly wondrous watching your image developing in front of you. The strange thing is we now take more pictures than ever before and print out or develop almost none of them.

The day turned very windy and I had to pack most of my stuff up when rain threated to put a stop to our museum. I mentioned that Mr. Sternberg was random and today he continued to be so, disappearing every now and then without so much as a by your leave and at one point leaving ectoplasm waving in the wind. It is only ectoplasm while there is someone with it after that it is just plastic. We gave Mr. Sternberg a sound thrashing with a borrowed horse whip when he returned from his absence…well, we might have.

I took a turn around the house with Malachi in the afternoon and when I returned I found that the Rapscallions were having a game of petanque that included at least three sets of balls, leaving enough round shot scattered across the lawn to reenact Waterloo. When P T Barnum was touring in England he discovered that many items ‘excavated’ on the Waterloo battlefield were made in Birmingham and suitably weathered.

My last show of the day was most enjoyable, a friend of mine turned up and her partner was most impressed by my platypus, while Charley had his photo taken several times – he sure gets around for a fake dead guy! While chatting to a couple of my visitors, I discovered that their family heritage included Mary Anning, Thomas Hawkins and Charles Darwin, which is a pretty impressive lineage for anyone.

We had, again, been lucky with the weather and the dread threat of rain before home time did not arrive. Many thanks once again to Frank for all his help with our gear; I am getting far too old to lug stuff up a haha!!

This is Prof Grymm stocking up on boules from Gettysburg

* Actually, I think it is so that they can be distinguished from authentic tin types. (Laz)