Although I’m more of a Wellington girl myself (a thin, aloof aristocrat beats out a short, sickly seaman. Sorry, Horatio), the Nelson Museum still seemed worthy of consideration, especially as I was already in Great Yarmouth. Appropriately enough, the museum is housed in a Georgian merchant’s house that overlooks the sea, much as Nelson probably gazed out over the horizon as a child. Admission to this compact, volunteer-run collection is a mere £3.50. The main gallery takes up the ground floor of the house, and is devoted to Nelson’s life-story, mainly accompanied by portraits and some commemorative china, although there were a few interactive things, like ropes for knot-tying practice, and paper and pens for trying out signing your name with your non-dominant hand (in case you ever lose an arm in battle!). I may suck at tying knots, but my left-handed signature was surprisingly good, perhaps because it looks so crap in the first place. It’s not hard to replicate a scribble.
In the back, there was a re-creation of the bedchamber at Merton Place, Nelson’s Wimbledon residence that he shared with his mistress, Lady Hamilton. I honestly had no idea that Nelson had lived in Wimbledon, even though I’ve pored over a copy of Wimbledon’s Cultural Heritage map, and was momentarily excited about the prospect of somewhere new to visit, but after looking it up, discovered Merton Place has been converted into council estates, so I guess I can cross that one off the list. Anyway, the walls were full of quotes describing Nelson, most of them unflattering (Wellington himself wasn’t especially keen), but then again, I suppose he was more a “man of the people” than anything. The first floor held the temporary exhibition space, currently on Nelson’s ships, with a painting and description of each. It was actually more interesting than I’m making it sound, since Nelson anecdote was included for each one. Some Nelson memorabilia sat in a case at the end, including a miniature replica of his coffin, similar to the one that can be found in a diorama at the back of the Painted Hall in Greenwich (I seem to be doing quite a lot of maritimey things lately for some reason).
“Life Below Decks” is the museum’s child-orientated section. Pushing in the ship’s biscuit (hmmm, that sounds a bit dirty, have I invented a new euphemism?) triggered a recording of a long, long conversation between two sailors, culminating in a naval battle. I had to duck outside before the cannon effects started going off; they were loud! They had a few touchy-feely boxes in here, some with disturbing things hidden inside, and a small below-decks area to explore.
The back garden was surprisingly spacious, and offered yet more activities. Here was where you could try out some games popular on ship, such as giant-sized dominoes, skittles, and a Ring-Around-the-Nelson rope throwing game, which I am demonstrating above. Back indoors, the gift shop was offering an unbelievably low price on postcards, so I now own quite an impressive range of Nelson cards. The museum was not terribly large, but I think that was reflected in the price, and the volunteers were certainly very friendly. I think I’d like to see more biographical information on Nelson; even though that was the main focus of the museum, it still felt like it was lacking something somehow, like I could never really get my head around the man. Or perhaps that was the result of his supposedly complex personality, and I just needed more background on naval practices and sailing? Either way, I think it was good, but not great. 3/5
The “Golden Mile” is the term used to describe the long strip of funfairs, arcades, restaurants, and adventure golf courses bordering the seafront, and I can never resist the tacky, yet alluring blend of the weird and wonderful that is the British seaside, so of course, we had to explore it. Besides that, Great Yarmouth is the Pleasure Beach that the Buckets visit in Keeping up Appearances, as I mentioned in my last post, so I had to walk in Hyacinth’s footsteps. The Ghost Train was the only ride we partook of, and I’m not one for swimming, especially on a slightly chilly day, so most of the time was spent wandering around and eating.
I love a good arcade, and the ones at the Pleasure Beach were decent, offering a mix of old and new games (though sadly, no Galaga, which is my favourite game and the one I’m most skilled at). The disturbing clown machines shown above were eerily ubiquitous, and I had to keep an eye on them so the clowns couldn’t eat my soul when I wasn’t paying attention. However, I let my guard down to play the early 90s Simpsons arcade game which I remembered fondly from my youth. I’m not any better at it now than I was back then.
Further along the beach, we espied the Merrivale Penny Arcade, whereupon we foolishly exchanged a pound for 15 antique pennies so we could use the coin-operated machines. After the Under the Pier Show in Southwold, they were bound to be unsatisfying, but these ones were real duds. Some hilariously so, like the “haunted house” where a lame plastic ghost dangled precariously from a chain in the background, and some were just crap, like the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Victorian peep show.
And of course, one of the delights of the seaside is eating yourself stupid on greasy food, so I was happy to oblige, managing to down a portion of cheesy chips, an extraordinarily oil-laden doughnut, a stick of rock, a strawberry swirl Mr Whippy (two-flavour Mr Whippy thrills me more than is warranted by the actual taste, but damned if I don’t miss good old American twist, where the chocolate side actually tastes of chocolate), and a Slush Puppy that was advertised as mix-your-own, but which the surly vendor insisted on mixing for me, and she skimped on the cherry. At least there was plenty of blue!
Although I don’t see how “Mr. Wobbles” on the right there would not scar children for life, Great Yarmouth was otherwise a pretty good seaside. Lots to do, and plenty quirky, but not so crowded that you couldn’t actually enjoy yourself, which is my main gripe with Brighton (well that, and the horrible rocky beach. I do like a sandy beach). Of course, it’s all terribly cheesy and overpriced, but I think that’s kind of the point.
In closing, I leave you with two seafood huts, which didn’t have punny names (though on retrospect, I suppose Rod’s does, sort of), but at least gave it a go with their taglines. Due to my insistence at getting chips from the chippy with the best name, we ended up at “Frydays,” which I thought was a bit of a poor effort, but it was the only place that even attempted a pun (besides, they had cheesy chips!). Step up your pun game, Yarmouth!