It's me with my hand in a killer whale's mouth!
Ignore the sign saying 'Please Do Not Touch' - that's only there for other people. Much like the sign near the entrance which said 'DO NOT SIT ON THE PIG'. Hey, if they don't want you sitting on the pig, they shouldn't call it a saddleback and make its ears look like handlebars.
Anyhoo, my Mummy came down to Brighton yesterday to visit me (she'd obviously read about my win on the horses), so I decided to make her feel at home by taking her to a building full of fossils and stuffed old birds. The Booth Museum of Natural History in Dyke Road is currently holding an exhibition entitled 'Life in Death', which sounds like a show on Living TV, but is actually a display about 'The Victorian Art of Taxidermy'. I'd recently discovered via YouTube that it includes frogs on swings, so I was naturally keen to get down there and give them a push.
What YouTube didn't tell me was that they also have a genuine bona fide 100% real Merman...
It looks like a baby, so I expect it's what Karen Kay had in mind when she wrote 'Birth of a Mermaid'. Interestingly, when Big Sis visited Banff in Canada a couple of months ago, she failed to mention that they have a Merman too. The things are clearly breeding like rabbits. Which is good news as I eat a lot of fish fingers, and you get five per hand.
As for the swinging frogs, well they turned out to be 'Athletic Toads', a mechanical tableau built in 1850 by Walter Potter (brother of Beatrix and Harry) (I expect). The sign claimed that "toads are, by their very nature, difficult to stuff", which I find a bit hard to believe. They're only warty chickens, and if Gordon Ramsay can stuff a poussin, I'm sure I could get a bit of sawdust up a toad.
In the 19th century you had to put a penny in the machine to get the toads to ride the see-saw, but thanks to Tony Blair's legacy of free museums for all, there's now no charge to send a stuffed toad across the room on a clockwork swing. That's why I voted New Labour.
Next to the toads' playground there was a funeral going on, in the form of 'The Original Death & Burial of Cock Robin', another case of stiffs from Mr Potter, which I've since found out was sold at auction in 2003 for £20,000. If I'd known, I'd have told my Mum to take the other end, and nicked it.
To be honest, the exhibition as a whole was a bit disappointingly small. You'd find more stuffed animals in my Mum's oven at Christmas. But I did like the ashtray made out of a tortoise, and despite being about as spacious as a garden shed, the rest of the museum was actually quite good, especially the skeleton collection, which featured a killer whale, an elephant's skull, and a horse who looked about as well as the ones I usually bet on. There were also enough dead birds to get Colonel Sanders excited.
Ultimately though, it did feel a bit like spending the afternoon in a morgue, so to cheer us both up, I took my Mum to the circus on our way home. That's John Goto's New World Circus, a photographic art exhibition currently on at the University of Brighton. I actually popped in there on Thursday, but didn't mention it at the time for fear of revealing that I didn't have a clue what the heck it was all about. Fortunately however, I've since looked deep into my soul (and the internet), and it all makes perfect sense now. I'll let my Mum explain it in the comments section.