Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Schoenenbourg & French Road Trip 30th April to 6th May 2009
 

 

 

Introduction: This event has, for us, been something like four years in the making; we were invited by Paul and Debbie of French Festival of History for the 2007 Show but due to other commitments, like bird watching in Poland, we were unable to attend. So this year we sort of pre-booked. Our main worry was getting the museum and its assorted contents safely to Alsace and back to England without mishap. I was particularly apprehensive about my stuff, having my Feejee mermaid disembowelled by customs would have been very upsetting. Still this exercise allowed us to catalogue most of our items, the list being printed out to explain to any curious official what three eccentric people were doing travelling with boxes full of oddities. Laz with his skills at making documents even produced Victorian passports for us, not that we were likely to be asked for them.

30th April - The Road to Metz: So…the big day dawned, we left London at 07:30 on 30th April and headed for Dover; easy enough until we could not find a way to the Euro Tunnel! Finally we were sorted and headed for the train. Did you know that the Euro is probably the world’s only currency named after a marsupial…the euro or wallaroo is one of three species of kangaroo known as wallaroos, my favourite is the antilopine wallaroo, the third, in case you are wondering, is the black wallaroo …what can I say? I like weird critters.

We took a break at Calais to grab a few supplies, mainly breakfast and a few beers, before starting our trek. I would have liked to buy some good cheese but we opted for Gouda, I know it’s a sacrilege in a country of fine cheeses but even a day with a well ripened camembert can be distressful on the olfactories!

Next challenge; the toll booth; more confusion as we waited for something to happen, as Richard read various, mostly unhelpful bits of info, on his side, I happen to spot a ticket poking out of the machine on my side…derrr…left hand drive and all that! Free at last we headed for Metz.

We stopped somewhere for lunch, local specialities were mostly gone so we settled for chicken and chips and sat outside listening to whitethroats singing in the bushes and watching swallows chasing bugs that had managed not to get themselves pasted to windscreens! My theory for the amount of bug spatters on the car is that a) it was a warm day and b) in Britain you rarely get to drive fast enough to hit them.

The rest of the trip to Metz was, apart from a couple of Montague’s harriers and the odd common buzzard, pretty unexciting. There were also some rather odd shapes arranged along the verge; multi coloured triangles, poles, spheres etc…probably alien landing strips or something similar.

We arrived in Metz with plenty of time to spare, which was just as well as there seemed to be rather a lot of one way systems, as a result of this it took us some 20 minutes just to pull up in front of the Ibis Hotel. When we asked a man about car parking, he tried to sell us a bunch of flowers…how odd. We thought that the excessive presence of police may have had something to do with us but we found that we were not far from a Police Hotel.

Parking the car was interesting; we were given an unlocking device and then went to a low lit garage that could only be accessed by the ‘key’. As we left I looked behind me to see Richard looking forlorn as the garage door started coming down, I thought that he would make an Indy-style roll, escaping a mangling in the nick of time and still having a second or two to retrieve a discarded hat. As it happened he just waited until I unlocked the gate. Our room overlooked part of the Moselle and I could see common carp feeding in the shallow water while on the bank a grey heron waited for something smaller.

1st May - On to Schoenenbourg: We set out fairly early for the Maginot Line and arrived at Schoenenburg Fort mid morning, actually we arrived in the town of Schoenenbourg first – that was where Sybil, the GPS, took us. The fort, being a military installation, does not exist, not even on Google Earth.

We met Paul and Debbie who introduced us to Ywonne, Robert and Hans. Marc Halter and his son Eric arrived (I thought they were brothers!) and while the others chatted I set off with Paul to check out our sleeping quarters. We were going to be in the other bit of the fort, the damp bit…with the dripping walls and ceiling, I wasn’t even sure I would find my way back there in the dark and had grave doubts about Richard’s ability to safely go where no Victorian Surgeon had gone before. Marc also showed us a steel cheval de fries and warned us to watch our faces and chests; I could just see some poor, slightly intoxicated soul going out for a pee at night and ending up like a shrike’s dinner on those nasty things.

As it turned out the Gents of Fanlan Uri kindly offered us their spare tent and lodgings for Richard in the main tent. As to our display, we have been promised sunny, hot weather like today so we will be setting up in the open instead of inside the fort entrance. We had been very mindful that Monday would be a Bank Holiday but today was the actual holiday, that was why folks were selling flowers, they are given to ones loved ones.

There were two features in front of the fort that drew attention; a luxurious new toilet block that had only been finished the day before and a skip the size of a Sherman tank that was supposed to have been removed. The latter was to be disguised using camouflage netting that was commandeered from somewhere. I gave a hand with this little venture; Robert got young Kévin to climb on top of the skip, rather him than me! When one layer of netting was over the skip another was attached to the fort wall and draped over the skip for more camo-elegance. As Eric whistled the theme from ‘Jurassic ParkAllan from Fanlan brought up his jeep and there was much clambering, losing of long handled saws and waving of pikes to get the net in place.

Paul also gave me a tour of the fort’s main features which included the machine gun room complete with recorded practice drill. It’s hard to imagine what it would be really like inside all that rock and concrete with the sound of the gun bouncing off the walls. Paul also showed me the grenade launcher, a clamp sort of contraption that dropped a grenade into the blind spot outside…I only hope it worked faster when it was new!

Later in the afternoon Eric lead a walk to the firing turrets. As we emerged from the woods I could not help noticing a shooting stand for those unwary deer and wild boar. The view is spectacular from the turrets and you can see the heights where the Hochwald Fort is situated. Eric then took us to the turret that sustained the only causality in the area; you can still see where the shell hit the concrete skirting before ricocheting into the open port hole. You can also see where someone chiselled away a few kilos of concrete to sell on eBay. Bad form that…

Our next stop was a visit to the Abri Grasserloch, which seemed much further than the 400m that I was told! Unlike the Schoenenbourg Fort this one is not restored to exhibition standard and is slowly being reclaimed by the land. While the outside has a somewhat ominous, overgrown atmosphere, the inside is something else all together. As we started down the dark steps I could only think of that creepy, claustrophobic film ‘The Descent’. The design of the quarters down there means that without light you would simply wander about for ever. Ceilings dripped with stalactites and below them little blunt humps of stalagmites…waiting to join their creators. Shelves have started to crack as the walls expand and contract with the seasons. This place has a creep factor 20 about it. I was shown a frog that had died in the darkness; it’s shrivelled body slowly becoming encrusted with calcium carbonate deposits. I tried taking a picture of this ghostly amphibian only to have my flash fail…I know how all those Nessie and Bigfoot photographers must feel! I did eventually manage to get a reasonable photo.

Later we headed for the Auberge de Ligne Maginot, where we were served huge amounts of schmupfnudle – this is what I copied from the board and may either be a misspelling or a joke, let’s face it, that can’t be a real word, it’s the sound one makes when inebriated…anyway the little meatballs with noodles were delicious. The Auberge would also be providing food for the rest of the weekend courtesy of AALMA.

Returning to the fort we prepared for another trip underground, this one to the gun turrets we had visited earlier via the tunnel that linked them to the fort. I almost did not go on this trip as my back was aching but when Eric told me that there would be no time on Saturday I relented and joined in, I am glad that I did.

The contrast with the Grasserloch is amazing; you could probably still live in this place. After checking out the various rooms; kitchen, sleeping quarters with uncomfortable looking steel sprung beds, engine rooms with spanners as large as elephant thigh bones and a medic quarters that had a set of cupping glasses, we walked for ages along the well lit tunnel (magic user at the back) until we reached the restored machine gun turret which Marc raised the entire metal structure single handed with a crank…I was impressed. As I made notes I was accused of spying but this was hardly a new invention, turrets similar to this had been used on ‘Monitor’ Class ironclads in the War Between the States. In contrast to all this was Marc’s brand new very shiny lift that takes visitors from ground level to the tunnels.

Marc told me stories about the veterans, as young men they had lived like monks – no running, no singing, no straying from one’s post or it was three days in a dark cell. They faced the invader with incredible courage and returned to their homes, after five years as POWs, grown men.

Finally we returned to the outside world, we had been down there some two hours and it was now dark and time for a beer. I also fancied a cigar so moseyed over to the car to get one, as I was in the process of lighting up a great roll of thunder swept over us…oh, dear. Paul came over and warned us that it would get worse and advised us to sleep in the fort. Taking local knowledge seriously we dragged our beds out of the tent and set them up in the tunnel by the ticket office. That thunder got closer and closer, I was standing just inside the gateway when there was loudest, sharpest rip of “Thunderbolt and lightening…” that I have ever experienced, I actually felt it as I jumped back inside. Paul believed that there had been a strike somewhere closer by…that was about as close to the Thunder Beings as I would like to get!

2nd May – To the Hochwald and Back: Despite the rain that followed the thunder last night we had a very comfortable sleep, I found it easier to pull my great coat over my head than wear one of those eyeshade-gimp mask things that you get for night flights. It was also a beautiful morning, the sun was out, the birds were singing and Richard’s brain was doing an early morning hyper-drive;

“Thatwasalotofthunderlastnightwhatanicedayitsturnedoutohmygodsomethinggreenjustfelloutofthattree…”

“It was a leaf…now breathe…”

As we made our way from the Hochwald car park to the fort entrance we could not help notice the cage for the guard dog was not only empty but the door had been torn off! I could only assume that it had been a particularly vicious hound that had broken out or something horrid had broken in and eaten it. Perhaps all this apparent normality was a cover and there was a hunt in progress for some deranged beast on the loose in the woods even as we stood there…ohhh nnooo…what if we were the bait!?

We were told that we could not wear uniforms for the trip but when we arrived, the officer introduced by Kristof as ‘Commander’ was somewhat disappointed that we were in civilian clothes…we all blamed Paul!

So into another man made cave we went, this place really does look like some arch villain’s lair, they even have little car things for henchmen to drive around in! We were taken to a machinegun post similar to the one I had seen at Schoenenbourg, as we stood waiting to go in there seemed to be rather a lot of people coming out, had we found the last hideout of the PFJ?

We got to have a look at the museum which contains quite an excellent collection of items from both wars. I overheard someone say to a friend “this is equal to pornography for you, isn’t it?” I gathered that the ecstatic grunt was an affirmative!

Back at the fort we changed into period clothing and set up the museum next to the memorial. Why not? It was going to be a hot day…I met my first French visitors and realised that I was going to have to rely mostly on charm to talk about anything. I found out two things while I talked to these pleasant people: the French for platypus is ornithorynque and it was going to rain…very soon…as I felt the first tiny droplets on my skin I grabbed our famous sheets of ectoplasm and covered things up just in case things got any worse…not likely, it was going to be a hot day. It was also lunch time and by the time that I had reached the food shelter the heavens had ripped apart like the waterbed of the gods and rain fell in a sort of deluge that once had an old guy take up boat building and cataloguing livestock. Like last nights thunder this was a very impressive downpour, an entire river system appeared in the parking area as the rain not only got harder but was joined by hail that rattled off the cover and our museum sitting there in the open. I hoped that a thunderbolt would not join in to scatter it to the four winds.

Dinner was a most enjoyable meat feast (Surkrut or Choucroute) served on hot sauerkraut; I have never seen so many pig parts on one plate before. I was recently asked, after being offered a portion of stewed pig’s ear, if there were any bits of pig that I have not eaten…yes but not many. Kristof slashed at a plastic table cloth to make a cape, as super heroes go I think he needed a bit more than an ill fitting bit of plastic and an enamel plate as a disguise, in all fairness though, that plate not only made a useful hat but could flick water droplets, in an Oddjob sort of way, at great speed.

I sat with the Romanian contingent during lunch and had a great time with them, and how could I refuse a tipple of fine malt on such a day? Lucky I had my collapsible tin cup with me. These folks had travelled the furthest, having flown part of the way to get to the event.

Finally the rain stopped and I went to assess any damage, passing a sad looking bit of bacon lying in a puddle along the way. That ectoplasm was well worth buying, it has saved our exhibits several times now and the potential damage could be seen in the puddles that had formed in the hollows. I was later told that 2cm of hail had fallen in Hagenau.

It was time to get the museum inside the fort and while I am sure that there have been some odd military processions in the last 5,000 years I doubt if there has been one where WWI Germans, Swiss Mercenaries, Romanians and the odd poilu, to mention but a few, carried a platypus, a mermaid and a shrunken head into a WWII fort.

While we were in a prime spot, just beyond the turnstile, most people just glanced at us because they were on a mission to get into the fort. This was probably just as well since only Richard has a smattering of French. Still I got by, once I knew the French for platypus (ornithorynque), mermaid (sirène) and cannibal fork (fourche de cannibal); I was on safe ground but could not tell the associated stories for most things.

Once the public had left we headed down to the Auberge for dinner, and after toasting the Empire we ate lots of Tarte Flambee, a pizza-style dish with onion, cream cheese and bacon. As soon as Dinner was over we headed back to the fort before the others in order to set up the magic lantern and for Paul to set up his music on the laptop.

In the grand scheme of the Cosmic Trickster things did not go as smoothly as planned; the screen was missing in action somewhere in London so we had to make do with a wall that is mostly grey, and the torch, while having new batteries in it, had decided to have some sort of electrical embolism so that only half the LEDs worked…this was going to be fun.

So I worked my way through ‘Birds and their Nests’ ‘The Tooms that Time Forgot’ and finished off with some very nice slip slides that Richard had put together. Sadly these did not come out at their best because of the lighting but we did manage to get Debbie’s birthday slide to show well. When the lights came on we found that we had actually put someone to sleep – that was a first. It was Natalia who had said “I am so looking forward to seeing this” only minutes before we started.

The next bit of the evenings entertainment was a series of short (historical) films which included Laurel and Hardy’ and a series where women sailed boats, ate sandwiches in barns and broke down on a forest path in a car with no engine. Having failed to make an engine from their clothes, the two ladies gave up and walked, hand in hand, back to civilization…possibly.

I went outside for a rest and ended up chatting with Kristof about WWI battlefield excavations and was also offered a drink of rum that went down my throat like the napalm scene from ‘Apocalypse Now’. Cheers.

Paul’s (the other Paul) daughter Lauren was taken by my smoking hat and she thought it might be a cool item for the Brighton clubbing scene! I also got to chat with Hans and he told me the sort of things that he had been involved in apart from working in a museum; these included a surreal array of things but my favourite was designing anti-polar bear doors for cabins!

I returned back to the entertainment just in time to witness the sepuku of reel 2 as it unravelled itself from the spool. I think that Nigel managed to salvage it. And as Paul (poilu Paul) set up his disco I realised that it was time for sleep and headed for the tent.

3rd May – The Show Goes On: When I left the tent this morning to go to the loos I did something very odd…I failed to spot Richard’s car parked in front and only noticed it when I returned! That movie had obviously traumatised me far more than I thought.

When Natalia turned up she apologised for falling asleep and explained that she had drunk a bottle of port along with some beer and the last thing she could remember was the test slide and us saying “can you see the word ‘Focus’?” so we have added Mesmerism to our repertoire!

I chatted with one of the guys who were sleeping in the section that was originally allotted to us, he told me that they had put down plastic ground sheets and then realised that they could hear the dripping of condensation from the ceiling! Robert told me that the lightshow was great especially considering that I had apparently talked for ages about nothing as he could not see most of the images!

And so once again we awaited the public who turned up in coach loads to see the place. A German chap referred to the mermaid as ‘wolpertinger’, I have only seen this term used for horned rabbits but perhaps it is generic for something cobbled together. I also got to talk about Beringer’s Lying Stones since Wurzburg is only somewhere over the border.

Whenever I went outside I was viewed with some suspicion, apparently Grymm Tooms had something to do with the weather, which had turned out nice again…as long as we remained inside. It was again time to eat – I like this! As I queued for my veal in cream sauce I was talking to a lady about the lightshow when her eyes went very wide – hey, we were not that amazing! Actually her reaction was because Richard, standing behind me, had suddenly toppled over backwards - he was Ok and as he said, the plate he was holding had been empty to start with.

After dinner there was a short ceremony of remembrance at the memorial. Wreaths were laid by Raphael, Steve, Nick from Fanlan and Janet, after which we had a one minute silence. After stand down we returned to our ‘posts’ to wait for the afternoon visitors.

Amongst our visitors was the Officer who had shown us the Hochwald, he had brought his family along with him. He was chatting with Dr Tooms when one of his daughters noticed Charlie and asked how you shrink a head, she also happened to be holding her baby brother who appeared to understand the question as he grabbed hold of her nostrils and tried pushing them up and over her forehead!

Our last visitors were a family with a young lad very eager for knowledge. His father spoke English and translated for me, I think this was the only visitor who wanted to see almost everything. I was told that this lad was already passionate about dinosaurs so I spent a bit of time going over that part of the collection. When I handed him the coprolite his grandmother gave me a knowing look and when the boy found out what he had been holding he made sure that he shook everyone’s hand! I thanked this family for stopping by and especially the father for taking so much trouble to translate all that information.

The event was now drawing to a close so we started to pack up before the lights went out at 18:00. Kévin was on a mission – he was having his picture taken wearing as many different hats as possible (not at the same time) and having the owner wear his military beret to stand next to him. I wonder if he tried on a pickelhaub? Looking at Raphael’s dapper uniform I could appreciate the elegance of this head gear which also offered minimum protection, perhaps slightly more than a ‘gor blimey hat’ worn by British troops.

And so finally packed we said goodbye to everyone who was left and headed for Metz and a well earned rest. We stayed at the Etap Metz Technopole, which even as we walked in had the feel of a youth hostel about it but proved comfortable but unlike our previous lodgings the view was of a car park.

4th May: Jedi Day

Happy Jedi Day…May the 4th Be With You!

Our objective today was to have a chill out and wander around Metz. Within a few minutes of parking we had found an interesting shop that sold neat little boxes that we could use for our displays.

The cathedral is a truly impressive structure with fantastic sculptures all over it. One particular character was stroking his beard in a rather knowing manner. I had a look at one of the arches; nice people in robes going to heaven, bad people, devoid of clothing, being lead into the jaws of some horrid beastie, of the various demonic critters adorning this doorway I noticed one that appeared to have a what looked like a key in it’s bum, closer inspection revealed a pair of wings, what an odd thing for a suppository I thought…Obviously a symbol warning us of the excesses of leguminous foods.

It was time for lunch so we looked for somewhere cheap to eat; we found ‘Flunch’. Looking at the menu I thought I’d try the andouilette (pronounced ã-doo-yet), Richard, who had claimed that “when in Rome”…got strung by his own petard when I suggested that he also try the tripe sausage. Janet opted for the fish dish. (an unidentified cod species), Richard only ate half of his sausage so I got seconds! This rich, earthy banger was considerably better than I had anticipated and even Janet tried a minute bit…I was impressed.

Now I am a great believer in synchronicity; had a young lad not referred to my Mystery Mammal as a “cui” at Dover Castle I would not have found a link to Andrew Zimmern’s ‘Bizarre Foods’ and in turn I would not have tried anything containing tripe ever again. Funny old world, innit!?

Having eaten our fill we set off to see more of this wonderful city, our aim was the Bridge of Death (Pont des Mort) and had an opportunity to sample its traffic light. One road we went along was lined with enough ginkgo trees to bump start the Jurassic. But, we were after more exciting places – namely the Chapelle des Templiers, passing the Arsenal, which looked vaguely interesting, we could not quite get to the chapel. Another run and Richard took a wrong turn along a parallel road, which took us straight into the car park beneath the Arsenal…ho hum. We opted for a look at this place so checked out parking, although having parked it was decided that the stairs were too far away so we headed for the exit while Richard searched for a new spot to park.

Having established a base we headed for the lift; we could see the next level; about shoulder height up! We emerged a few seconds later not into an arsenal, as we expected, but a shopping centre. After glancing at a shop selling Betty Boop figurines and finding that we had to pay to use the toilet, we gave up. We had seen Betty earlier in the day when she was on an advertisement for anti-varicose vein cream!

Grabbing our ticket we headed down to the car park, Richard took the lift, we took the stairs…and emerged on level 3 instead of level 2…there are no stairs leading to level 2 in either direction, a bit confusing considering that level 1 was mere feet away.

When we finally teamed up with Richard he started to crack up, “That’s…that’s…the world’s…worst theme park!” he gasped as he almost collapsed in hysterics, I was soon in the same state. OK, breathe, breathe, that’s it, get in the car and hope that no one noticed. We had so far spent about 40 minutes of our lives wandering in a car park and when we finally drove out of the place we popped up two blocks away! That little jaunt had cost a humble €1.50 – now that is value for entertainment! We failed to reach the chapel; those dastardly Templarrr Conspiracy Theorists had led us astray through the subterranean vaults of Metz, I now understood why that guy was stroking his beard.

We headed back to base for a rest and then returned for our evening meal. We found a very nice restaurant. The ‘coq’ was all gone so Janet and Richard opted for a local dish of cured meats, which was excellent, and I, still wanting a hot meal went for the last option - tete de veau. I detest most of what the British pass off as Quiche Lorraine so much that I was slightly dreading the starters. Ironic really since I had earlier eaten two portions of pig giblets stuffed into more pig giblets. I need not have worried, the quiche was fantastic and when my main course turned up I was pleased to see that I would not have to perform a lobotomy on it, as it had been de-boned and pressed and, while knowledge of cranial anatomy may not have been an advantage, it was wonderfully rich and delicious.

5th May - The Road to Calais: We were set to go soon after breakfast, leaving the hotel to the song of a nightingale singing somewhere in the nearby garden centre we headed for Verdun. I read a book on the battle quite a few years ago and had wanted to visit the site ever since. When we reached some road works at a turn off for Verdun a kindly shop manikin in yellow oilskin and hard hat waved a red flag, somewhere out there an EU Directive exists covering protective clothing for shop dummies that have joined the construction industry.

As we reached the outskirts of this famous town we were confronted with an odd collection of tackiness that we had seen once before at Pigeon Forge, TN, only this place lacked the bright lights. Thankfully things got better by the time that we reached the tourist office.

From town we headed for Fort Douaumont, I couldn’t recall the name of the second fort until I remembered that there is a Vaux’s swift…that may or may not make sense…anyway we were not to have time to visit Fort Vaux as it was already mid-morning when we reached the Ossuary. This a beautifully tended cemetery but as you travel through the wooded lane to the fort the damage done by the bombardments is still evident; shell holes upon shells, now smoothed and overgrown by trees, it is not hard to a imagine that land being torn and churned up daily.

As we arrived at the fort it started to drizzle, it reminded me of an old legend about the spirits of the dead coming back as rain to nurture the earth. While Richard took the low road we went up onto the fort and walked amongst the turrets that now stand as little island of iron and concrete. Our only criticism of this site is that the concrete path up to the fort top is not handicap friendly; all it needs is a couple of handrails for a start.

Back at the car park we decided to tour the fort, we were not sure what to expect but once you pass the ticket office and gift shop what remains is pretty amazing, although within five minutes of getting into the damp corridor we were accosted by a young lady who wanted an interview for her reporter’s course. Janet snuck away and left me to it! The reporter wanted to know why I was there and, amongst other things, whether this should be a French monument or a universal one – my reply to that was that battle fields should be for all, who knows, one day we might just see some sense and have a world wide group hug.

Just as the land outside is gradually reclaiming the damage, the earth is taking things back on the inside; there is a constant drip of water and one room is particularly impressive with hundreds of stalactite pencils hanging from the ceiling and reflected on the wet floor. There are mineral deposits over walls everywhere and I can only wonder what this place will be like in a thousand years.

We gradually worked our way to the 115mm gun turret; I had seen this at ground level and now got to see the gears and counter-weights that made it work. We also stopped at the very interesting shaft that leads down into the dark, very creepy. And, talking of creepy, a young lady visitor nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw a grey figure moving quietly around – it was Janet in her grey waterproofs!

I asked Richard if he was doing OK, his reply was “Great, I’m really enjoying this. Put it this way it’s not the tripe sausage”. Interesting benchmark of quality that.

By the time we got out the drizzle had stopped and, after photographing some cowslips flowering on a crater rim, we headed for the Ossuary. Sadly we did not have time to go in, to do so in the short time that we had would have been an insult, so we left and continued our trip to Calais.

We arrived at a service station just after they stopped serving food and ended up grabbing sandwiches from the shop. There were some Japanese tourists in front of me and when a lady asked the cashier for a bag the answer was “No, no bags!” I only mention this because I got a bag without needing to ask and was not quite sure if she was actually talking to me, since she was busy muttering to herself as she took my money. I ended up with something called an ‘olive cake’ a sweet, egg based loaf containing olives and chopped ham…very interesting.

We had also invented the Norbert Game for when we were on the road, these are quite uncommon in the UK but throughout our journey we had seen loads. A standard norbert is worth a point, as is a soft norbert. A double norbert is worth 2 points and a water norbert is worth 3 points, white norberts are worth 5 points because they are not only scarce but also hard to spot.

We reached Calais, after a pretty unremarkable journey, around 6pm and booked into the Ibis Hotel. It was time to chill out, drink beer, eat and mull over the trip; well it had been a success, despite the stress of moving the museum. We had met some great people and I had got to eat some interesting things, including a burger that was so rare it may well have recovered if left alone long enough.

As descendants of a tree dwelling primate humans have developed a knack for digging, I reckon that over the last few days we had spent about 25% of our time in tunnels of one sort or another. It’s hardly a wonder many books have been written on the subject including Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the ‘Centre of the Earth’ or that there have been real searches for the mythical opening to the Hollow Earth. Once all the fantasy is out of the way I suspect that this is little more than a race memory of a time when we sat in caves hoping that cave hyenas wouldn’t bite our faces off! And so with that in mind the next day we headed for the euro-tunnel to once more delve underground in our quest to get home.

So it just remains for me to say a huge thank you for all those who organised this event, with special thanks to Marc and Eric for all their hard work and Paul and Debbie (who like to get mentioned!) for inviting us so long ago.

This is Prof. Grymm…in search of ‘The Mole People