Sunday, 27 October 2013

Mummy in the Museum (ho ho) - Excursion

Available from Hive.
Not only is it half term, the teachers decided to have extra celebrations by enjoying an INSET day on the Friday before. For once I realised this was coming up, instead of finding out the day beforehand, and was able to make cunning plans accordingly. I had seen that there is an obscure little Egyptology museum on the University of Swansea campus and this seemed so hilarious that it had to be visited. I envisioned some dark poky place with glass cabinets of dusty amulets.

What better time to go than in the lead up to Halloween! Some children on a trip to an obscure little Egyptology museum in darkened university buildings? I'm sure there must already be a film about it.

I managed to snaffle a neighbour's piglet who is into this kind of thing, being like Piglet an avid reader of the Rick Riordan books - in which the dyslexic hero with anger management issues turns out to be a demi-god. (I really recommend these. The films are a jolly lead-in to the books. After seeing the film and starting to read the books, Piglet ceased to drag her feet - literally - and moan 'I'm bored' when going round classical antiquities. Although she does annoy us now by asking intelligent questions about the Greek gods, correcting our mis-informed ideas about their genealogy and telling us their back story in precise detail - luckily not the unsuitable bits about Zeus's extramarital affairs.)

I also got the neighbour's small boy piglet along by casually mentioning that we would be going for fish and chips and ice cream sundaes after the museum trip.

Available from Hive.
Being an academic I gave them a good reading list: Everyday History: Life in Ancient Egypt; Book 1 of the Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid; and Asterix and Cleopatra.

It's a fair drive to Swansea, so I provided a snack pack although Piglet - who was in charge of it - was having so much fun chatting that she forgot to hand out the Sunbites until the very end. You have to drive through Swansea to the university campus on the sea front, but it's pretty much straight on once you have left the motorway (at Junction 42), so it's not hard to get there. Best parking is just past the University main entrance on the right. (The beach is on your left.) There is a small and reasonably priced council car park beside The Pub on the Park, where you can get hot meals. There is also a pond with hissing geese (get back! I am a mom and I am prepared to use this butcher's bag full of heavy books on Egyptology!) and a crazy golf course. There is also parking on the other side of the road by the traffic lights (by the beach), although that one is more expensive.

You go through the university campus to get to the museum which is part of the Taliesin building. We inevitably attracted some attention, as there are very few piglets trotting around university campuses in term time. I overheard the neighbour girl piglet say to Piglet: "They are staring at us cuz we are the coolest." The good thing about university campuses is that there is bound to be a toilet in any building you are passing by, so when one or other piglet says they need it desperately you don't have to run to the museum, you just pop into some laboratories or lecture theatres, whatever you are walking past, and look around for the door with the toilet sign on it. Nobody asks you questions although they look at you in a puzzled way, because they spend all day being asked stupid questions by jealous rival academics. They know better than to invite the sort of scornful looks and sarcastic responses which they know they will get off some woman in a scruffy Barbour, who is already confidently shepherding three piglets along in a sharp tone of voice.

The museum itself was so much fun that the small boy piglet wrote This is awsome Dad in hieroglyphs. It's actually designed for school trips now so it's really well set up for kids. There was hardly anyone there the day we went. Half term will probably be more crowded, especially as there are some workshop activities planned. There are only two rooms: the House of Life and the House of Death, and there is a gift shop which is nearly as big as the rest of the museum of course. 

Tutankhamun's Senet set (Wikipedia)
I had come armed with pads of paper, pencils, pens and a tin of colouring pencils. I meant to force the piglets into going round drawing dusty artefacts in dim glass cases, which they actually enjoy once they get into it, and had said there would be no ice creams for anyone who did not produce a drawing. I needn't have worried as there was lots of paper and pencils available. In any case, an enthusiastic volunteer immediately began showing the piglets how to play Sennet, the ancient Egyptian game. After that, they were able to write like Egyptians and thoroughly enjoyed copying down hieroglyphs to say things like: Piglet Rules, and Yes! ice cream. Just as I was about to drag them all off for the fish and chips, the enthusiastic volunteer came back from lunch. She insisted on showing them genuine artefacts which were 1000s of years old, and even tried to get me to join in but I was having a nice time knitting my sock so I refused. The piglets all had to put white cotton gloves on to handle the exhibits which you can imagine they really loved.

I was reminded of a friend of mine at university who was doing Egyptology. Part of his exam was to draw an artefact and they fetched a 4000 year old bowl out of the university museum for him to draw. He dropped it and it broke. He came round to see another friend and myself weeping and pale, saying: "I'm going to fail! I'm going to fail!" We were able to comfort him, saying: "No, you are the only student in the whole department. If they fail you they will have a 100% failure rate so they're not going to do it."

I believe that in subsequent years if they managed to recruit a student they would give them a replica to draw.

(Oh, he passed, of course.) 

Egyptian pillow from 
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Anyway, the piglets were very good - yes, the small boy piglet was very well behaved too. (Boy piglet parents fret that they will be unmanageable but I find they are actually well behaved, perhaps because I am a former rugby player and give off the vibes of someone who was known for her vicious hand-off.) The piglets didn't break anything and were allowed to lie on the floor at the end and try out an Egyptian pillow.

We didn't have time for the House of Death, just time to cruise the gift shop which was packed with cheap jolly scarabs and where I even managed to get a very reasonably priced coloured glass perfume bottle for a female relative for Christmas. In fact it was so reasonably priced that I think I will go back. Er, I mean, I think the educational value of going round the House of Death and learning mummification (perhaps in a practical way on the small boy piglet) would be so valuable that we ought to go back. LOL, seriously, we didn't have time to do the Egyptian mathematics which looked both entertaining and extremely high in educational value, so I will definitely go back.

Sidoli's ice cream sundaes 
from previous trip.

By then it was getting a bit late to be going for fish and chips and ice cream sundaes at Sidolis, which is where I always go if I am anywhere in the vicinity of Porthcawl cuz it is delicious beyond the dreams of small children dreaming of ice cream. While cruising out of Swansea, I suddenly spotted a large M and so I neatly cut across three lanes of traffic (thank you kind and courteous white VW beetle who let me in) and took the piglets for a surreptitious McDonalds meal. There are many different kinds of experience in life, and I like to provide a variety of them for Piggles. 

(For further reading, I recommend Draw Like an Egyptian, which surreptitiously teaches piglets about life in ancient Egypt while they think they are just having fun drawing.)


  1. When I was 8 and 9 I was right into Greek mythology. For one school presentation I drew the Greek gods family tree and explained the complicated relationships between Zeus and his sisters and offspring. "Goodness James, you seem to know a lot about that, now moving along who's next?". After that I got into Egyptian, Norse and Celtic mythology which is very tragic though less incestuous.

    1. Yes, there are always dangers in introducing the Classics to the kids! They used to be thought too much for the delicate ladies as well, LOL.