When I see a coelacanth fly

As a kid I never took much interest in coelacanths (or any other higher form of maths for the matter); in the 60s travelling to the museums in South Kensington, I would give the exhibit of one (ostensibly extinct) caught by fishermen off the coast of Africa in the 30s a swerve.

Even though the Natural History Museum had several floors, I was only interested in seeing the blue whale, the diplodocus (even though I’d been vaccinated against that as a child) and the dodo. There was over 99% I never saw: rare insects from Patagonia didn’t grab me (probably no bad thing as I may have gone down with mild diplodocus).

The Science Museum was the same – all those fascinating things to see and touch, but all I wanted to do was a press a button and watch a door open automatically.

But there was always the gift shop and the mark of a good museum can be judged by the selection of Kendal Mint Cake available within. You could also buy a badge which your mum could sew onto your Tesco Home ‘n’ Wear anorak. I had one from Ventnor (not bought at the Science Museum, although that would have been just as confusing as some of the exhibits).

I vaguely remember lots of stationery on offer: pens, pencils, rubbers (not the sort offered at the barber’s) and in the Science Museum a card which had ion filings, which, using a magnet, you could design facial and head hair designs (I can only asssume Vidal Sassoon was a regular visitor there?)

Once I inadvertently stumbled into the (now defunct) Geolocial Museum – wasn’t keen on the Kendal Mint Cake there – tasted too much like rock – less Brighton, but rather those gathered at Alum Bay.

And as Rupert Brooke would have said: “Is there coelacanth still for tea?”

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