Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Newhaven Fort 6 & 7 June



Saturday: Due to the sloping, angular layout of the fort grounds being Dr. Tooms unfriendly we decided that we would stay in Eastbourne and then day trip the event Saturday and Sunday. We popped in Friday afternoon to say hi and then headed to our lodgings. As it turned out we were there for quite a while. Paul showed us the collection that he and Paul, the other Paul, had put together and had now loaned to Newhaven. What better way of moving your vast collection of medals and ordnance out of your home!

We then headed to Eastbourne where, once settled, we headed for a rather decent curry. Seeing Eastbourne from the car was rather refreshing for me, since years back I had done part of the South Downs Way and hiked up that slope toward the golf course with enough gear to keep Percy Fawcett going for months…

Saturday turned out rather beautifully, although there was a forecast for quite a bit of rain, this was magically halted by Paul making sure that once set up Grymm Tooms never went out into the sun as a group!

It was a slow morning; we were competing with the local Fish Fair, no doubt hungrily eyed up by that giant cormorant perched in the river. We met up with Kristof, and his dad, and Burt, who didn’t offer me lighter fuel again. Kristof’s Belgians were very neatly turned out as Australians and he has very kindly invited us to Zonnebeke next April.

We also met up with Jan and Digger from La Columna, it’s been ages since we saw them. La Columna’s surgeon popped in for a chat and told me about all the varieties of pith helmet that were available. We also met up with the Royal Sussex who we had last seen on a rainy day at Gunpowder Mills.

The afternoon went better with a few more people turning up; a couple of young ladies were interested in the huia specimens and knew rather more about moas than most people. Another visitor was Ben, smartly turned out as a Royal Marine Commando; we mostly chatted about model making and he told me how he worked with latex to impregnate cloth or paper to make it go further and not have to do so much layering, I did a similar thing with our tape worm.

This weekend also coincided with D-Day and in the afternoon there was a little ceremony on the parade ground with the Last Post being played and the colours lowered.

After the show we stayed back to do a magic lantern show…this was novel, being able to set up and do a show in the early hours of the day. We set up inside the hut and once the doors were closed it was fantastic - it was dark and we could see slide colours! The audience got to have a better look at the slip slides that Richard had made for Alsace. For our main show we were going to do ‘Tooms that Time Forgot’ only to be met with rebellion in the audience, it was at this point that we realised that Paul and Debbie had seen it rather more times than they had hoped! Mind you, it’s rarely the same piece twice anyway: lines are made up as we go along for the most part and there is always something new that inevitably goes wrong!

Our main feature was ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ for which Richard had written a little poem. During a glitch in slide replacing I read it backwards only to discover that the only way to do that was in a Yoda voice!

We had guests of honour today; a sizable portion of Debbie’s Clan including her Mum…what they made of our bizarre display and magic lantern show can only be guessed at!

When we arrived at the fort in the early hours of Sunday morning, the gate was still closed. I banged on the door with what must be the biggest door knocker that I have ever seen…and waited…and waited some more. It now appeared that we were laying siege to Newhaven Fort and were considering building a wooden rabbit to trick them into letting us in when Debbie called out from the other side; she may, like Helen, been trying to trick us into revealing ourselves inside that rabbit…but, she was just having problems getting the door open…we got there in the end.

There were a couple of interesting jars on the breakfast table; one contained raspberry curd and the other was even more interesting - You would imagine that a word like ‘Speculoos’ would refer to some sort of surgical instrument but it is in fact a rather yummy biscuit paste, now this is interesting…it looks rather like smooth, but slightly animated, peanut butter and smells of rich tea biscuits. I suppose it is a bit like turning well toasted bread into a spread to put on more bread…

Again the morning moseyed at a fairly quiet pace, but we had enough visitors to keep us entertained. There was also a group of kids who ran down…and up the 70 stairs that lead down to the beach several times. Gosh I remember the days when I had that sort of stamina!

Tooms was set up in the doorway near the entrance not far from the fort’s WWI Museum and he could hear the various songs of the period being played…and played some more. I believe he said that there were only four tunes played back to back the whole day; ‘Long Way to Tipperary’ is one of my all time favourites but hearing it every 10 minutes or so would probably give me the flux! Unlike Tooms, however, I only got to hear it whenever I went out for some fresh air.

Dark grey clouds with pale edges that had threatened to dump lots of water on us most of the day finally attacked in the afternoon – we ‘ad nuffin to do wiv it, ‘onest guv! I went over and helped the others get their stuff into the hut. Thankfully the rain had come late in the day and things had quietened down a bit.

It was time to pack up and head for home…