Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Festival of History (English Heritage) 11 & 12 August 2007



Friday: We arrived in the mid afternoon, after a slight detour to the wrong gate, and then followed a lady on a buggy to our pitch. As we were unpacking I noticed something rather odd, I had put King Charles’s the First’s Parrot in the passenger seat for safety and it now looked as though it was waiting to be taken somewhere. We had loads of room although our right flank seemed to be one of the few non-flat bits around. Once everything was set up we chilled out for a while. Oddly enough this was one of the few occasions when I did not change to period clothing, and something I later regretted somewhat as it was rather a chilly evening. Mike the Viking was to join us for dinner but he turned up almost two hours late and ate his chicken dish cold.

Saturday morning was warming even as we had our breakfast and afterwards I wandered about to get an idea of the place. Home Front friends were on our right and behind us were La Columna. Over in the Viking camp a sizable pig was being prepared for cooking. I kept hearing a mule braying and at one point I was convinced it was a recording. Don’t ask me why, perhaps my brain had not warmed up yet. But there it was looking at me in that way mules look...I vaguely recalled a film about a talking mule...or perhaps I dreamed it.

This was going to be a long and hot day; once the gates were open the public arrived in droves. They would not be leaving until gone 6 pm. We were scheduled to do three main talks during the day, I decided that mine would be about the fakes and their associated conspiracies; after all anecdotes about Neanderthals and Great Auks have only so much mileage. This way I could leave our visitors to ask about items and then I could talk at length about mermaids, horned rabbits, etc. and finish off with the platypus which, while not a fake, was once believed to be a bit of taxidermal trickery.

Two of my visitors were a young couple who knew far more about Megalasaurs than I would have expected, it took a while for the penny to drop but I got there in the end – I was talking to Palaeontologists! While I was giving one talk a couple of WWI German reconnaissance planes came over, these were then followed by the most impressive array of WWI aircraft that I have ever seen: SE5a, DR1, a Neuport and a Sopwith Triplane. I was told that they were flown by WWII veterans.

One young lad was not overly impressed by the mermaid but brightened up when I showed him the little netsuke one. “She’s got boobies!” he exclaimed covering his mouth gleefully! Another boy seemed captivated by everything and just when I thought he had run out of questions he would come up with something else. “I’d just like to ask you one more thing” he would say politely and point to an item. “ more thing” actually ran for about 15 questions until he was finally satisfied. I think his mum thought he was overdoing things but that kind of curiosity deserves some time.

I drank water constantly just to keep up with the heat and while I was chatting I was handed a bowl of ice cream by Cassandra. Those little horn bowls we bought a couple of seasons back come in handy and are historically accurate since cornets are just out of our time zone. Still there is always some smart alec who comments.

The show was slowly coming to a close and it would soon be time for the parade so we started packing up our stuff. As I was boxing up the specimens a young girl came up gnawing on a gob-stopper the size of Jupiter. She had obviously been worrying the thing for some time as her face and hands were covered with white, sugary gunk and... she was reaching out to touch something...“The horror, the horror!”...but I got there just in time.

The three of us made our way to the parade, I carried the mermaid, Tooms carried Gage and Cassandra took one of our new banners. We found ourselves by the ACWS Crimean War Unit and the Heilbron Commando. And then we were off. Tooms had trouble keeping up so dropped out and, I later learned, walked into a ‘gopher’ hole! As we reached the commentary box it was obvious that they did not know who we were...two people with a banner can’t be that hard to identify and since we were following The Diehards we were announced as ‘Empire Missionaries’. Grymm Tooms is obviously an influential force in Her Majesty’s Dominions!

I must say it felt rather odd being in the parade, the last time I was in one of these walk through parades I was at the head of the 4th Texas carrying the colours, now here I was holding a mutant herring!

Finally the show was over and we could settle down to that well earned beer. Mike arrived with a couple of bottles of wine, well one of them was wine and I’m not entirely sure what the fizzy, orange stuff actually was now I think on it.

Then Dawn turned up about 7pm, she must have been one of the last visitors on site and she was sort of marooned, having somehow misplaced her husband. Dawn is a chorister, as we found out when Mike asked her to sing something and by a strange twist in the Millipede of Synchronicity she had sang at the same event as Mike some time back. Husband finally located, Dawn left us over an hour later.

I woke up early to the sound of rain on canvas. Sunday, it seemed, was not going to be a sunny day. Still it had its moments between bits of wet. Laz and Cassandra went off to spend lots of money at Ali’s and within five minutes of them leaving the rain came back in earnest. Thankfully the Department of Visual Perception had already been put away and the Medical department is mostly waterproof, my Natural History Department on the other hand started looking very sorry and I had to unceremoniously chuck most of it under the table. Throughout this I managed to talk to one gentleman and even got in a talk about Mr.Gage.

Thankfully the weather cleared by the afternoon and we could put most of our stuff out again. It also dried off the tents very nicely for the return journey. It had been a very good show with lots of interested and interesting folks to talk to.

This is Prof. Grymm heading for the Sauce of the Nile...