Friday: We arrived about an hour later than we had planned
for and found that we had a vast amount of room, even when we had
filled it with the 3 tents and tables. Behind us was Gerry
the rope maker, we had bought our frontage rope from him
last year, very nice cotton rope to keep the crowds at bay.
Saturday: The day started beautifully and once we had set
up, Dr Tooms produced his latest creation, a phenakistoscope,
he had reproduced the whole thing to fit into a small cigar box.
It took me a while to get to grips with watching the mirrored image
but I did get there in the end… and then the rain came. It was one
of those cold, wind driven summer squalls that sent the unfortunate
Charlie spinning like a top. Thankfully we had brought some
plastic sheets this year and although light and easily damaged they
were to be very useful. The optics department was effectively closed
from that point until some time in the afternoon, Medical Marvels
was pretty much hors de combat, Dr Tooms latest exhibits
had been reduced to worthless bits of paper, and even the portrait
of Mrs Maybrick became little more than a Rorschach
Test! This was going to be the pattern, so to speak, for
the day and by mid morning I had become a one man show.
In the high wind the plastic sheet covering the specimens looked
almost like one of those arty photos of rushing water taken at low
speed, had I not been battling the elements I would have written
a haiku! On the other hand it also looked a bit like a great stream
disgorged at some insane Victorian séance. All this plastic was
held in place by an ovate flint, the Surinam
toad and Loretta, the Neanderthal man…or woman, not
to mention quite a bit of wishful thinking! Such team work!
My least favourite visitors were a couple of boys who not only
asked dumb questions but in between thought that it cool to chuck
bits of grass at my stuff while their mother looked on. I could
see that the oldest was about to ask another silly question so I
told him that he should think very carefully about it since it was
going to be the last one that I would answer… he did not think much
and it was so pointless a question that my brain automatically deleted
it! He was about to say something else but I reminded him that he
had used up his last wish and he went off mumbling incoherently.
I was saved by some very nice ladies, again.
Amongst my favourite visitors were an Australian couple whose daughter
was very keen to ask sensible questions. Amongst another group of
visitors was a young lady who asked me if I had a wolpertinger
or jackalope. I told her I had retired my one last year,
I prefer the mermaid to be a focal point as it has a more interesting
period story, I showed her my notes on the subject.
It seemed that every time a group of people turned up the rain
followed and we, or rather I, did not get going properly until some
time in the afternoon when the rain finally eased off and the ectoplasm
could be put out of sight but close enough to grab in an emergency.
Earlier in the day I spotted a couple of gents talking to Dr
Tooms, I noticed that one of them had one of those microphones
that looks like a chinchilla onna stick, this as it turned out was
Sessions and his sound man Paul and they had tracked
down Grymm Tooms for a Radio 4 interview.
John Sessions and Paul returned in the afternoon,
during a quiet moment. The interview went very well and will be
broadcast on 4th October at 10.30 as part of a series on
entertainment. John asked lots of really good questions and
between Tooms and myself I think we did a pretty good job
of things. It will be interesting to hear how much of the15 minutes
or so will get used. As I was talking about the non-descript
I unconsciously held it up to the microphone, perhaps I wanted our
listeners to get a better view!
Once the show was over we headed for a meeting with Tabulae,
I kept saying it so that it sounds like a recipe… sorry. Thankfully
we did not have far to go since it was held at Gerry’s. This
was a good little do and I met a man who had a pretty little dog
that looked remarkably like a small thylacine.
I was rather tempted to paint stripes on it and add it to the museum
as a living specimen!
Once the dark came we set up the magic lantern show, we had a new
production of ‘The Tooms that Time Forgot’ or is it ‘The
Time…’ Anyway it was about Crystal skulls and it was
chaotic and as random as usual but the crowd enjoyed it.
And then it was time to retire for a very large gin and tonic…
Sunday: It chucked it down during the night and the wind
came back with a vengeance and while Sunday started sunny, there
was that hint of cloud that thankfully kept away from us. I simply
could not warm up, I don’t do well when exposed to constant buffeting
from high winds, my head hurt and I could not sum up enough energy
to put on my Sunday best. Instead I huddled in my coat and jammed
my pith helmet onto my head. My wide brimmed hat would have ended
up in Roswell
had I bothered to put it on.
I was again mostly a one man show; we gave up on the optics when
our original zoetrope turned turtle in a gust of wind. We
also had very few visitors, not because there were no visitors to
be had but, as we found out, our fans either expected us to be somewhere
else or simply could not find us, apparently even Mr Sessions
had to ask directions. What had seemed like a good spot was actually
in between arenas so we got somewhat by passed as the public went
from one show to another.
Things were so quiet that I went for a walk with Mrs. Grymm,
visiting a few friends and grabbing a bag of fudge for Dr Tooms.
His face lit up like that of an urchin in a Dickens novel when we
gave it to him.
In the afternoon while I was giving my talk someone who should
have known better interrupted me with “Is that the sabre toothed
platypus of Cambridge?” Since this inane question came from a fellow
re-enactor who knows me very well I let it drift over me like a
passenger pigeon’s last gasp. Call me a pedant but I have problems
coping with ridiculous natural history names like: lesser spotted
long toed Etcetera from folks trying to be funny. There are enough
names given to critters without the need to make anything up,
take for example, the green warbler and the greenish warbler,
since quite a few Old World warblers are varying shades of green
you get the impression that someone ran out of names and imagination!
Amongst my visitors today were two internationals fascinated by
the mermaid, the first was a French lady who was with her family
and the second was an East European gentlemen who called it a ‘rusalka’,
a name I recognised and associated with Slavic fairy tales.
And so the show closed, it had been a rather frustrating event
for us, the elements had been rather against us, but it had also
had its moments.
This is Prof Grymm stepping into the Turdis to search
for the two
barred greenish warbler…