Colchester Castle Museum – Just Where The Sat Nav Left It…
A few weeks back I promised myself a day out and I found myself trundling down the dual carriageway on the way to Colchester with a view to enlightening myself about all things old and Roman at the Colchester Castle Museum. Amazingly, I found my way there without getting lost, which is quite something as generally satnavs lie to me. They do. I end up driving down a dirt track at the end of some farmer’s field with the satnav screaming at me: “You are lost! You are lost!” while I scream back, ‘but you sent me this way! Oi! It’s no good you re-routing now, is it?!’
The castle hadn’t opened by the time I’d arrived so I went for a wander down the high street. Two piano shops and a croque monsieur sandwich later, I went and bought myself a ticket to the castle museum for a very reasonable £7.50 and, for an additional £1, you can have a little Samsung tablet to wonder around with that tells you additional bits and bobs as you go around the displays, including graphics of how the castle’s interior may once have looked hundreds of years ago. Hold the tablet up at the appointed place, turn around, and a 360º view of the place in its former glory appears on the screen, moving as you move. Nifty.
Chainmail Shirts Are Soooo Last Century Darling
The museum is torn between ages. The thick stone walls of the ancient Norman Keep and the lovely modern glass display cases and airy atmosphere inside the museum combine to make it a very unique place. It’s not your average museum full of untouchable objects, there are parts of the museum where you can dress up as a Roman soldier (apparently this is mainly for the children but hey ho…) and you can handle a chainmail shirt so you can feel just how incredibly heavy they were and other replica items so you get a real feel for the history of the place. I heard one father say to his kids: ‘here you go, pick up this shield… heavy, isn’t it?’ I smiled while the kids staggered around under the weight of the replica shield. ‘Now imagine trying to lift a heavy sword at the same time AND wear one of these chainmail shirts.’ And then imagine wearing a helmet you probably can’t see too much through and then maybe some other armour and then having to fight for your life, I thought to myself. Jeez… and they say a policeman’s lot is not a happy one; it beats the pants off being a Roman soldier.
Fleshing Out History – Sometimes Cake Just Won’t Do It
After a pleasant couple of hours gazing at all things ancient and Roman, I went across the way to a little church with a wonderfully overgrown graveyard. It’s almost as if it’s been forgotten about what with the way the ivy has been left to crawl up over the gravestones and the trees keep everything else in perpetual heavy shade, but if you have a look at the sign by the main entrance of the former All Saints church, it’s actually Colchester’s Natural History Museum. Now this is something I bet the Church never foresaw happening. The church has been turned into a stage for all things stuffed and feathered with slightly surprised expressions on their faces (excluding the lady on the front desk, she was very nice and smiley). It was a serene environment to take in some information about the local wildlife and salt marshes. On the day that I went, there was a lady doing face painting for the kids, and whilst I decided against it, I did see a few kiddies wandering about sporting some pretty cool face paints. But it does seem that being a church in Colchester is a hazardous pastime – the ones I came across had been turned into either museums or vintage markets and coffee shops… which is fine by me because it means these fine old buildings are still being kept in use, but I bet the occupants of the tombs under the ancient stone floors wonder what’s going on in their Holiest of Holies. I did like the polite notice up in the Church Of The Holy Sale Now On though, asking people not to plonk their chairs on top of the underfloor residents. It’s nice to see a bit of respect still lingers in this day and age of ‘ I Want Everything Now And I Don’t Care Who I Put My Chair On To Get It.’
How To Redecorate A Church, Vintage Style
I love what they’ve done with the place…
I think I might venture back to the lovely old town of Colchester at Christmas because it hasn’t yet succumbed to the giant department stores that sell all the same old things and kick all the other little boutiques which we all love out of business. It has retained its many individual shops with shopkeepers who still smile at you and take a moment to chat. That’s something I miss, working in London where even the briefest shopping excursion can feel like a soulless chore where you’re just washed along the shopping aisles with the rest of The Masses.